As live sports slowly begins to resume this month, discussions have been raised over the long term future of the esports betting industry, which rose in prominence during the global health pandemic.
Marek Suchar is the Head of Sales at Oddin.gg, a B2B esports odds feed and risk management provider. He spoke to SBC News about the future of the esports betting landscape, as well as highlighting the lessons learnt by both traditional bookmakers and the competitive gaming sector.
Suchar stated: “Esports betting belonged in the top five sports for operators that invested in it even before the crisis. The current situation provided a boost and put esports into the spotlight as nothing major is being played. It might help to attract some audience that otherwise did not pay much attention to esports.
“Starting with millennials, next generations consume more and more content digitally, with gaming and esports being one of their first entertainment choices, with sports falling off. It would come only naturally that betting will become more and more part of it. There is no reason for esports to slow down, quite the opposite.
“Outside of extinguishing the fire caused by the crisis, many of the operators had some time to sit down and re-thing long-term strategy. Once digitalisation and attracting a younger audience is in its centre, esports is a critical piece of puzzle you need to opt for. The harder part is not just having it, but building it as a solid proposition for the target audience, otherwise it would not work.”
As Suchar alluded to, esports has not only provided operators with content during the live sport hiatus, but it has also helped tap into a new demographic that has previously been difficult to engage. However, if operators don’t commit to esports, through gaining knowledge or partnering with the correct firms, then long term benefits of the sector will be mitigated.
He explained: “The level of understanding esports with a long-term plan to attract the younger generation extremely varies from bookmaker to bookmaker. This being said, the ones that are the furthest down the road understand the level of complexity esports represent in the contrary to legacy sports and that doing it in house is extremely challenging. They are looking for the right partner that understands the ecosystem and can bring the highest value by engaging the target audience the most.
“As esports betting grows, we will no longer speak about esports as one sport. Similarly, we do not speak about ball sports as one group, given that there is big variety from football and tennis to volleyball. We will start to speak separately of Counter Strike, League of Legends and others. That being said, bookmakers will rely on the esports odds feed experts to help them navigate within the ecosystem.”
One specific esports betting sector that has risen in popularity is sport-centric simulation titles such as NBA 2K and FIFA. EveryMatrix’s ‘The State of Esports Betting Report 2020’ highlighted that the two titles have made up 80 per cent of the industry’s betting volume, showing how many traditional bettors have used esports as a substitute during the live sports hiatus.
Suchar conceded that the likelihood of FIFA and NBA2K remaining a driving force in the esports betting sector is doubtful due to its target audience being live-sport punters. Whilst not certain, it is expected that eventually these sectors will drop, especially as Serie A, La Liga and the Premier League return to our screens this month.
“The situation has put titles like FIFA into the spotlight, even though within the esports community their viewership and betting volume was quite mediocre before,” he explained.
“Sport bettors have come in touch with esports thanks to the proximity of sporting simulators with reality. However, whether sporting simulators will remain successful even after the current situation ends is still highly questionable. In this sense, they seem to be rather alternative to virtual games than to esports betting.”
However according to Oddin’s head of sales, with more resources being put into ‘traditional’ games, there is no reason why mainstream titles cannot continue to develop and grow in the long term.
Suchar added: “There can be a decline in sport simulators like FIFA, but there is no reason for mainstream esports titles like Counter Strike, League of Legends or Dota2 to stop their long-term growth. There can be a small correction as people will not watch as much content when they resume with other hobbies, but other than that there is no relevant reason to break the long-term trend of esports betting (as confirmed by multiple partners) at least doubling its size annually.”
The global health pandemic did not create esports betting, but it certainly brought it to the attention of traditional bookmakers and the majority of sportsbooks. With this increase of attention, esports betting systematically has also seen a shift in how it works in order to adapt to a mainstream, neutral audience. This has led to the esport betting sector learning and progressing to ensure that it remains healthy and viable after the COVID-19 crisis, alongside traditional sports.
Nevertheless, according to Suchar, more still needs to be done to iron out the faults in the esports betting sector, particularly with its live offerings, in order to continue building that bridge between traditional and esports bettors.
He concluded: “Current state of esports betting lacks the proper level of engagement, that happens in live as around 80 per cent of betting volume comes from live betting. Half of the game bettors cannot bet and when they can, there is usually only one market to bet on. We see a huge potential in truly engaging esports offering represented by highest uptime technically possible (80 per cent+) and huge variety of live markets (16+).
“Our aim has been to drive the engagement by allowing bettors to bet when they want on multiple situations within the game.”