The credits are playing on Season 11, which can only mean one thing — we’re preparing to do it all over again in just a few hours, as the Season 12 floodgates open with everyone’s favorite day of the month — Foal’s Day.
In keeping with our promise to keep a direct line to our race schedule Wizard of Oz, Third Time Product Director Richie Choi, on the eve of each season, we recently chatted him up about what the team saw in Season 11 and how it impacted what players can expect to find in Season 12.
Take it away, Richie!!!!
It’s no secret the last few weeks have brought about some significant tweaks, changes, and improvements. How do you feel about the outcomes, especially regarding the race schedule strategy?
Richie: Season 11 was undoubtedly a turning point for us. The new distribution of CROWN by race type was popular with the community, which felt like a significant win.
Most importantly, we saw increased fill rates and fewer canceled races than the previous season – the most significant metric we watched.
More racing means the race schedule is working. It’s the ultimate “ball don’t lie” guiding data light we look to.
Also, concentrating horse pick ‘juice’ for a few races rather than spreading it out made a big difference. Players were more engaged, and the larger payouts incentivized participation. That feels like something we hit on and can build off of.
What learnings from Season 11 are being applied to Season 12?
Richie: We learned a lot in Season 11—so much more than if we stood still and didn’t test different theories and race structures. We continue to balance player requests with what the data tells us, all with one goal in mind – the longevity and sustainability of a game that’s true to life, competitive, and, most importantly, entertaining, no matter what’s in your stable.
Based on trends and feedback we saw in Season 11, in Season 12, we’re introducing age 6-8 restricted lower-priced claimers to accommodate the aging population and the popularity of lower-priced claiming races.
We’re also bringing back a grade-based system for maiden races, which has been a hot request from our players.
Can you tell us more about the new features and race types players can expect in Season 12?
Richie: We’re still busy at work trying to make the most of the schedule, but we’re activating the following in Season 12.
- Increased the number of graded races and introduced a Major Sprint series targeting short-distance specialists.
- With the aging population and the increase in popularity of lower-priced claiming races in mind, we’re adding age 6-8 restricted lower-priced claimers to provide these horses further an additional place to run.
- We’re launching the Last 5 Benchmark Allowance races, designed to bridge performance gaps and offer a competitive platform for horses based on their recent runs.
- We are adding back a hotly requested change to maiden races to be grade-based rather than allowance-based to test the viability of this race type.
It’s an exciting time for players looking for diverse, competitive racing options.
We talk so much about now, but it’s always helpful for players to understand what the team hopes the long-term product looks like so they can picture their vision and plan accordingly.
What are your hopes and plans for the game by, say, Season 50?
Richie: Looking ahead to Season 50, I envision a game where all horses have a competitive field to run on, supported by a larger horse population. It’s just really that simple – and true to life. Lots of races. Lots of horses. Lots of racetracks. Somewhere for everyone to thrive – from the Claimer horses to the Kentucky Derby champions.
So, on a basic level, we’re working to ensure the future holds plenty of places where horses of all shapes and sizes can race on demand for big purses. We want players to believe they can win where they’re comfortable playing, not that they will win.
By Season 50, I also hope we’re talking about stables competing for millions in DERBY prizes, with a plugged-in community of spectators making headlines with their horse picks.
It’s about building a sustainable and engaging ecosystem that grows with the player base. To get there, every season needs to be better than the last. At the moment, we’re doing just that.
You touched on this early, but can you provide any context around the redistribution of ‘juice’ in pick pools in Season 11 and whether it significantly impacted participation?
Richie: The change has shown a positive uptick, though not one we deem permanent. By adjusting how we distributed the wagering ‘juice,’ both in terms of horse subsidies and the number of races, we saw an increase in the net handle even before this season’s Derby Day, which saw nearly $5,000 wagered on the Kentucky Derby alone.
It’s a testament to our approach of continuously refining the game based on data insights and player feedback. We hope our constant communications about the thought process behind changes and ample heads-up on what’s to come will continue to build our great community’s faith.
I end every check-in like this, but it remains true: whether it’s long nights of debates or euphoric celebrations, we’re all together! We’re building something that is often imitated but impossible to duplicate because no one has the community and team that we have.