Both fantasy and esports are very much buzzwords in the igaming world right now.
Scott Burton is the CEO of a company which is a major player in both; eSportsPools.
The community centred site is also partnered with Na’Vi, or Natus Vincere, a popular team with over 355,000 Twitter followers. For those whose Latin is getting a bit rusty it means ‘Born to Win’.
We chatted with Scott about how operating an esports focused fantasy site differs to that of those offering traditional sports, and the partnership with Na’Vi.
SBC: Hi Scott, can you tell SBC readers more about eSportsPools (ESP) and fantasy esports?
Scott: eSportsPools (ESP) is both the largest and one of the first esports fantasy sites. We launched the site in late 2014 and have now registered users in over 150 countries. We offer free-to-play fantasy leagues for users to win virtual goods and in some regions we also offer paid entry fee leagues to win both cash and virtual goods.
Our fantasy leagues work the same as traditional sports where users are given a budget to pick a team who collect points throughout an event. The difference is they are picking professional esports athletes instead of traditional sports athletes.
We are currently completing the licensing process which will allow us to open up paid entry leagues in more regions and also introduce our esports wagering products.
SBC: You’ve partnered with Natus Vincere for a promotional campaign, can you tell us more about this and how it came about?
Scott: We have been the official fantasy sponsor of Natus Vincere for almost a year now!
We have sponsored other teams in the past but Na’Vi is the largest organisation we have worked with. It originally came about when one of their executives contacted us through our support page to discuss sponsorship.
We were already looking to sponsor a couple of other teams but liked what Na’Vi could bring with their popularity and social reach. It has been a great partnership for us; they’re a very good organisation to work with and have worked with us to create some really unique promotions.
Our Na’Vi campaigns have been one of our best channels for user acquisition.
SBC: On eSports Pools there are regular chances to win from virtual items to branded gear, is this an important part of understanding how the esports demographic at large differs to typical traditional sports punters?
Scott: Understanding what the users want and value is very important. We realised early on how much more activity we had when we were giving away rare and or valuable in game items and exclusive merchandise.
We do offer cash prizes in some regions but our unique ability to offer skins and merchandise continues to drive users. This demographic is highly social online and used to sharing new and updates with their peers. Being able to show that you won a highly valued skin or rare piece of team merchandise has much more appeal than straight up cash.
SBC: How key is establishing a sense of community on ESP to ensure customer retention? The Eggstravaganza in April seemed to go down a storm..
Scott: We believe community matters much more in this space than with traditional bookmakers.
Current sports bettors have been introduced to the online concept over time allowing them to do what they once did in a brick and mortar shop on their phone or computer. Our users have grown up online and for many that is where they go for community. They have high expectations of a site to provide them more than just utility so we are working to provide them with news, entertainment and social activity in addition to winning great prizes.
Our Eggstravaganza is one example of how we engage and give back to our community which had users spending hours a day on the site. We have also recently launched an esports news aggregator in the form of flux.gg. Flux has been incorporated into our iOS and Android apps and will soon be added to ESP for a one stop source of esports news.
SBC: On which title do you tend to see the most volume and interaction, or does this vary tournament to tournament?
Scott: Volume and interaction does depend on the tournament schedule but we tend to see the most activity with CSGO.
I think that is partly due to the active betting scene around the game and also it was the first game we began offering fantasy leagues on when we started. Dota 2 and League of Legends were added next and they are gaining momentum. We will be adding a few more games in the near future too so watch this space.
SBC: Any thoughts on the UK Gambling Commission’s recent report on esports betting?
Scott: The report didn’t have anything that we were not expecting and I think they are taking the right approach by looking at esports betting in the same way they do traditional sports, and seeking input from stakeholders in the space.
We previously operated a licensed site focused on traditional sports and have continued to follow the same rules with ESP. It has always been clear to us that skins are a digital currency of sorts and should fall within the rules of a licence. We have the ability to offer wagers with cash or virtual goods which we will be introducing later this year.
You can have all your questions about esports and betting answered at #bettingonsports next month in London. Find out more here.