Updated on 02/27/2013 5:14PM

The Jockey Club revamps online games strategy


The Jockey Club is revamping its gaming strategy after its initial efforts in the market fell flat last year, officials for the organization said Wednesday.

The Jockey Club launched two Internet games last year as part of a larger $10 million, five-year effort to build awareness of the sport. Both games are currently inactive and are being redesigned after failing to make a significant impact in the over-saturated casual-gaming marketplace, an intensely crowded space where the losers far outnumber the winners.

“It’s been a huge learning process,” said Jason Wilson, the Jockey Club’s vice president of business development. “Overall, people are still trying to figure out the whole gaming environment, and to us, it’s still evolving. I’m still optimistic about the space.”

The Jockey Club indicated that its gaming strategy was being reconsidered in a document it issued Wednesday morning detailing the organization’s effort to implement the recommendations of a 2011 report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. The report concluded that racing had been losing market share to competing entertainment options, and it recommended that the sport increase its outreach efforts to younger demographics, through television, social media, and other marketing efforts.

As part of that effort, the Jockey Club recently announced that it had hired six “brand ambassadors” who will travel around the country throughout this year trying to drum up support for racing. The tour will make its first stop March 11 at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, and will then tour cities with racetracks, ending with Los Angeles for this year’s Breeders’ Cup.

As for the two games that are being revamped, the Jockey Club’s more ambitious effort was a social-network game called Thoroughbred World that was launched on Facebook last August. The game resembled Farmville, but it did not come close to matching that game’s success. It was taken down in late October after suffering numerous glitches and attracting what appeared to be a small core of players.

The Thoroughbred World concept is currently being redesigned as a mobile application, Wilson said. The redesign is expected to be launched “later this year” on Apple devices, with an Android version to follow that launch, Wilson said.

Whether the game will be re-launched on Facebook depends on its reception as a mobile game, Wilson said.

The other game, Major League Horse Racing, was designed to appeal to fantasy-league players. It has been inactive since last year’s Breeders’ Cup, and it is currently being prepared for a March re-launch designed around the road to the Triple Crown.

The game is currently designed for two “seasons” focusing on the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup. But Wilson said the designers are attempting to modify the game so that players would be able to run their stables throughout the year.

“We like the game, but we’re a little dissatisfied that it’s not available year-round,” Wilson said.

The Jockey Club also is in the process of licensing an existing mobile game, Wilson said. He declined to name the game, but said that it was designed around breeding horses. Last year, the Stronach Group, which owns several high-profile racetracks, launched a breeding and racing game available at horseracegame.com.