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Season 9: Greatness Awaits

Welcome back, Photo Finish™ LIVE faithful! This article is chock-full of juicy details. But a quick TL;DR before we head down into the weeds: 

We’re focused on building a sustainable game that can last forever

  • We’re building a game that can appeal to 600 million fans of the sport of horse racing across the world and countless more who enjoy in-depth strategy, skill, fantasy sports, and sports betting
  • We’ve crossed massive milestones since launch. But we’re still early, the populations are just beginning to branch out! Based on last season's activity, we’re on track to see a record amount of “juice” rolling into Season 9.
  • As of this writing, there will be more than USD $70,000 worth of $DERBY available as an airdrop to those racing, with another $150,000 plowed into Season 9 purses and rewards. Exciting times! 


Sports Fans spend billions on their favorite video games

Curious, isn’t it? 

With all that said, let’s dive deeper into the happenings: 

End of an Era: Gen Zero Racers Retire

Regardless of the sport, every athlete has one undefeated competitor in common – Father Time – who decides when to hang it up. For the final 1,000+ Photo Finish™ LIVE Generation Zero horses that were still racing as of Age 8, that time is Season 9.

Life comes at you fast when you’re a racehorse, but if handled with care, the breeding chapter can be more fruitful (and probably enjoyable?) than a racing career. 

Take arguably the most famous racehorse of all time, 1973 Kentucky Derby winner Secretariat, whose racing career spanned just 16 months before heading out to stud. He would go on to sire 663 foals, which included 341 winners and 54 stakes winners. 

Your Secretariat moment has arrived, Gen Zero. We wish you all a happy retirement and fruitful breeding careers. 

What’s the population growth looking like? We are going to see 3000+ new miracle horses born, with 2000+ moving to age 1, and 1500+ moving to the racing age of 2.   

Season 9: Calendar Update

Season 9 Calendar. Get Organized!

WHAT: The Third Time Carnival series (the major races on the first Saturday of each season) moves to the 2nd Thursday of each season. The return of Third Time Thursday! 

WHY: Before Season 9, owners with horses in the Right-Dirt archetype could race their 3-year-olds in this major series while still being able to retire and breed that same season, in essence, “double-dipping” whereas no other archetype could. 

HOW: A new Juvenile-focused “Rising Star Stakes” series ensures high-quality racing on the first Saturday of each season. Qualifying for the Right-Dirt Third Time Championship remains unchanged in the first week of the season, however, the race itself is now run AFTER the breeding window closes. 

You’ll also note the After Dark Thursday series has moved to Friday, to better align with our hosts’ personal lives!


Real Money + Schedule Updates

If the race schedule is the engine that drives Photo Finish™, valuable feedback from players on how we can fine-tune things is the check engine light we work to address at every pit stop. 

For Season 9, we’ve looked under the hood of the race schedule and made a few changes that we hope will only increase performance. As you all know we of course monitor analytics AND feedback so we’re going to closely keep an eye on these! Here are just a few of the changes: 

WHAT: Major Races have climbed to $5000, and Major Race undercards have also jumped up significantly in value! 

WHY: High value free-rolls and juiced races encourage everyone to breed the best quality horses!

WHAT: Claiming races move from a claiming price range of $10k-$100k to a range of $20K to $250K + we’ve added more claimers overall!

WHY: As the prices of horses have continued to rise, the community has been very active in requesting higher-priced claimers to play with. And as one of our most popular series, we’re giving you more of them. We aim to please! 


WHAT: Maiden Races for age 3-8-year-old horses have been removed.

WHY: These were our least popular race series. Time to cull the herd! 


WHAT: $CROWN gifts are no longer locked to a 1-1 ratio of entry fees. Though most of them will remain the same, some races now can have much larger / higher stakes entry fees with a lower “$CROWN stimmy’’ ratio than you may be used to. 

WHY: The disconnecting of this ratio (which Richie can tune per race) a) creates more strategy and skill in looking through the schedule and b) allows the team to create higher stakes races without robbing all the stimmies from the lower tier races. 


WHAT: Some GI races got richer - with an entry fee range as high as 24,000 $DERBY.      

WHY: We see you out there - buying and selling horses on the marketplace at very high prices. We’re ready to see if you all are ready to raise the stakes on the races they enter!   

Introducing: Benchmark Allowances 

Exciting news – Benchmark Allowances are coming! 

The entire team has been in the lab working on a new metric that will not only help better measure a racehorse’s performance but deliver it to stable owners in a simple-to-understand way that will help create an entirely new race series. 

WHAT: There are new allowance race types denoted “Benchmark”, where the weights added/removed from horses are determined by recent performances of the horses. 

WHY: For quite some time, the easiest way to segment many races and allowance weighting was by utilizing their genetic “GRADE” rating (i.e. B / A / S). Those deep in the community from the beginning have known that this was always a stop-gap for us, with the ultimate goal to be creating allowances that more closely mirror real life. 

The critical flaw of using their GRADE has been oft-maligned, which is that say, a lower tier S- for example, they’ve got nowhere to run. This applies to many grades really. So we’re trying to create a more authentic, strategic, and FUN way to match up ‘bands’ of horses in a dynamic way. 

HOW: Our solution, like always, is to look to real life! It’s evident that claiming races have proven their popularity to match real life (primarily in the western hemisphere) of course, so for this situation, we took inspiration and suggestions from our community members in the eastern hemisphere, introducing our take on the system of “Benchmark Handicapping” that is extremely popular with their racing series! 

To determine a horse’s Benchmark rating, we utilize a horse’s Fleet Figures and other weighting to create a new “overall” rating. This is still shown right next to the horse with the Fleet Figure icon, but now it’s no longer simply just a 3-race average. This dynamically moving rating (FF Overall? FF Benchmark? We’re still working on the UX…) then determines how much weight is allowed in the benchmark race. 

Practical example: Let’s say you’ve been running 70’s for a while. You have 2 bad races, and drop to 65. Now you can enter a 65-70 range Benchmark allowance race as you’ll be getting a maximum 2.5lb allowance as a 65 while being a smart owner and hoping your steed has a 70-quality race still in him! 

We should be clear: we assume perfecting these races will take weeks to get the tuning dialed in, so we’re not just removing grade-based allowance races. We appreciate your patience and welcome feedback as we build this out together. It’s going to be a FUN one.       

Photo Finish™ Goes Worldwide

Speaking of your feedback, we’ve heard requests from players around the globe asking for Photo Finish™ LIVE to extend its usual 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. EST schedule to accommodate different time zones, thus enabling them to watch and enter races live. 

After some tinkering, we’re excited to make that wish a reality – Beginning in Season 9, Photo Finish™ racing will take place 22 hours a day. The 2-hour down-time gap will be from 9:00-10:00 am and 10:00 pm-11:00 pm ET every day, giving us a little gap to deploy any changes without disrupting racing.


Future of Crown Stimmies

NBA Hall of Famer and current Miami Heat Team President Pat Riley once famously said of building a championship team, “There are no obstacles,” before thinking about it a moment and adding, “Well, there are tons of them, but there's none,” 

That line of thinking rings true at Third Time as we stay focused on the long-term to ensure anything we see coming down the road is met with a mightier pivot that avoids pitfalls and improves the game’s viability and outlook. 

So let’s talk about the future of CROWN gifts and how much for how long players can expect to see those ‘stimmies’ distributed to race entrants. This is a cornerstone issue for most and a critical metric that will continue the game’s growth over the coming months. 

If you need a refresher, our core design has always been “utilize CROWN to get racing much closer to break-even or EV+ until wager pools can fill the gap”. Our initial model then was to utilize the 55,000,000 CROWN in the ecosystem treasury and incentivize races for the first 13 seasons (4.23M CROWN per season), assuming that we could spend a year building wagering pools up, ready to crush our enemies by Derby 150. 

As much as we modeled things and tried to make accurate projections, this “stimmies” model was still a guesstimate as we had no idea how the market would price CROWN. (We had it at $0.04-$0.06 in our models fwiw)

Well, obviously, the surge in pricing has made racing, uh, pretty profitable! This is a good problem to have of course, but anyone out there with history in this space has to have their spidey senses tingling like us. This is clearly too much and too fast. 

Because, at current prices, our race scheduling system incentivized 2,100 horses with nearly $2,000,000 worth of $CROWN stimmies. In other words, every horse in Photo Finish™ LIVE has been tweeting “WAGMI” non-stop; it’s getting a bit ridiculous. 

So, clearly, we need to get these numbers tuned for more long term sustainability. The stimmies need to know their own value to reach their desired goal, which is to be just valuable enough to incentivize racing and encourage skill-based race selection. The stimmies desired goal is obviously NOT to have people plowing any horse into any race they see to mine CROWN. 

We still feel quite strongly that utilizing wagering (a known EV- activity) to subsidize racing is the best idea to make Photo Finish™ LIVE truly sustainable forever - just as it works in real life. We’ve made some great strides here. If you’re an optimist, you love to see these up and to the right charts where we continue to show growth nearly every single week. We can’t thank the community enough for being a part of driving this alongside us. From the Racing Forms to MJ’s Tools to GapData - (and many more in development), as well as the exciting streams and race calls from MoKnowz, Doughboy, and many others - we are truly building some great momentum here! 

Up And To The Right Graph

However, the pessimist can step here and see there is quite a wide gulf between what $CROWN stimmies currently provide (upwards of *cough* $2,000,000 per season) and what the pick pool handles currently provide ($20,000 per season). 

Side note: It’s funny how if someone said ‘we need to 100x this KPI metric’ 3 years ago on a mobile game I’d be freaking out, but in crypto I’m like ‘oh sweet, this should be fun’. 

But anyway, all that to be said, we likely have too wide of a gap to make up by April, when the $CROWN stimmies will run out. If we do nothing, and go from 4.23M one season to cold turkey the next, the impact would likely be uhm, not good... 

So, here’s the plan, PFL family: 

CROWN stimulus version 2

WHAT: In Season 9, nothing changes. But, beginning in Season 10, the CROWN Stimulus plan changes. And, we have to be honest, we don't exactly know which way to go yet. We've got three main models we're evaluating, and look forward to discussing the strengths and weaknesses of each with you, the community.

For IDEA #1, the stimulus plan utilizes a familiar 'halving' setup that most in crypto are used to. Each halving period would last 6 seasons, halving again after that, subdividing gloriously towards infinity. (i.e. it will keep cutting itself in half, which will last forever). Based on our models (not financial advice), this pushes racing to EV- around Season 24.

For IDEA #2, we drop down to roughly 1.2M $CROWN per season, a straightforward change that more or less tries to match the stimulus to the growth of the token price on the market. When we announced the stimulus program, $CROWN typically traded well below a dime, so making the stimulus last longer obviously makes mathematical sense, though it may sting a little. This one has an added benefit of pretty drastically reducing circulating supply, and keeping racing EV+ (based on our models - not financial advice) until ~Season 36.

For IDEA #3, somewhat similar to #1, we shave a percentage off every season. This smooths the curve downward and also ensures infinite stimulus. This pushes racing into EV- territory (based on our models - not financial advice) - around Season 26.

A gentle reminder that in all plans, the original 55,000,000 $CROWN tokens earmarked for stimulus does not change. It just how we spread it out!  

WHY: As we’ve continually stated, Third Time and our community at large has to stay light on our feet regarding $CROWN stimmies. The reality is that keeping a watchful eye on race +/- EV and tinkering when needed during this ‘Growth Phase’ is what has fueled our success thus far, and we’ll continue to make those adjustments in the future. Rest assured, and as we’ve thus far proven, all changes come with a deep assessment of what’s best for our players and the game's future. 

NOTE: Outside of stretching our CROWN runway as long as possible, we want to continue to drive more and more $CROWN into race purses. How do we do that? Well, we could mint more! Just kidding, that’s what another project would probably do. 

In order to do that, we have to start getting people to spend $CROWN. Lucky for you, dear reader, we’ve spent decades collectively making free-to-play games, coming up with fair and balanced ways to monetize premium currency. These can be small like cosmetics and horse-renames, or unique like multipliers on Pick-6’s, to crazy things like subscription-based deep analytics and API packages, or no-duh things like allowing $CROWN pick pools. We’re not announcing anything officially just yet, but if there’s one thing you can count on, we’re all aligned to ensure this game lasts for the LONG HAUL!     


A message From Ian Cummings, Founder & CEO

Sheesh, this article escalated quickly! 

I hope you enjoyed this long read. It’s been such an exciting, exhausting, and unbelievable launch of Photo Finish™ LIVE, and seeing this community grow and blossom and hit its stride is just about the most rewarding experience I’ve had in my 23-year career so far. 

Photo Finish™ LIVE has seen unprecedented growth. Unbelievable retention and spend metrics. We still see 91% player retention from horse owners AFTER 180 DAYS!!! 

All of this success has been done with a team of less than 10 people. 

On a destination website. 

Without a single advertising dollar spent. No bots. No shills. No influencers. 

Just US and YOU.

Geolocked to only 37 US states. 

What happens when we add mobile? When we move into UK and Australia? Hong Kong, Japan, Dubai, Saudi Arabia? 

What happens when our darling $CROWN token is listed on the biggest crypto exchanges in the world with professional market makers managing liquidity pools?

We’ve all got something special here. And we can’t wait to see what’s next.  

- Ian Cummings

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