Casual gamers of multi-player video games looking to “make it interesting,” “up the ante” or “put their money where their mouth is” now have an automated solution to making “a friendly wager,” thanks to San Diego-based Challenger Interactive.
The company was founded in 2017 by CEO Chris Slovak and COO Chris Andres – two veterans of the San Diego startup scene and avid gamers who have “a little bit of an overly competitive streak,” Slovak said.
While playing a game of “Battlefield,” Slovak wondered aloud why they couldn’t play for a dollar a kill. “And that was it, that was the start of it,” he said.
Slovak and Andres looked at market and saw that gaming that paid players only fell into two camps – spectators watching games on media channels like Twitch and betting on the side or competing at pro level tournaments.
“So it was either for the elite or the spectator and I’m kind of an average player, and I think most players also fall somewhere in between,” Slovak said.
Challenger was designed to serve gamers that are not quite pro but would be “interested in participating in friendly betting on their own play,” Slovak said, adding that he estimates the company’s core market is about 60 to 90 million gamers who have been playing for around 13 years, are in their 30s and have some disposable income.
“And those gamers, if you look at the stats, they’re playing six to eight hours a week at multiplayer and that’s because they are competitive, they want to play each other,” he said.
Challenger launched its app this summer, starting with a same-lobby play format for the game “Counterstrike: Global Offensive” where the betting is based on whoever shoots their opponent first, wins.
Challenger followed up that release with a rewards-based platform that doesn’t require playing contests, but players can earn reward points.
In October, the company launched the first-ever cross-lobby play format that supports the most popular type of gaming today – the battle royale. The company’s app for “Call of Duty: Warzone” allows for making wagers on specifics like betting $20 that you can get more kills than other players playing the same game at same level.
“And the customer doesn’t have to think about any scheduling, they don’t have to worry about finding an opponent, we do all of that for them,” Slovak said, adding that Challenger was built to be an “always on experience” where players can drop in and play – “just show up in a game and be able to up the ante.”
Challenger’s tech uses AI and optical character recognition to watch gamers as they play. The program understands what game is being played, who is playing, what they’re doing, and the money is moved based on contests the players agree upon before they start playing.
“The system we created is unlike any other experience,” Andres said. “It overlays on top of existing video games and offers contests that match the playstyle of the gamer, making real cash contests accessible to all gamers and at the time of their choosing.”
Currently, the Challenger app is only available for Windows PCs although Slovak said the company is already working on expending it to other devices. So far, the platform is just shy of 10,000 downloads but is “growing significantly,” Slovak said.
The company, which has already attracted some early seed money from investors like SeventySix Capital, is looking to expand by marketing to similar outlets in the gaming space like sports bet operators, fantasy sports operators and casinos.
Challenger is also building a following with promotional streaming with big name gaming competitors like “Call of Duty” champion HusKerrs.
CEO: Chris Slovak
Business: Peer-to-peer wagering platform for video games.
Notable: Challenger is the first platform offering AI-powered automated wagering for video games in a battle royale format.