Esports betting has enjoyed a well-documented rise to prominence over the last few months, partly due to global restrictions and the postponement of live sporting events.
However, the challenge now for esports is to cement itself as a major player in the overall sports betting landscape, avoiding a situation where audiences just ‘revert to type’ as the sports action returns.
SBC News spoke to Marek Suchar, Head of Partnerships at Oddin.gg, about the firm’s venture into the esports betting landscape and key aims for 2020.
SBC: For those who might be unaware, can you just explain what you do?
MS: Oddin is B2B esports odds feed and risk management provider. Given that around 80% of esports betting happens in live, while the match is being played, our focus is on live offerings, improving the parameters like uptime (how long across the course of the game you can bet) and the number of live markets. We are the leaders in the industry with average uptime of more than 80% and around 16 live markets for every core esports title. Truly engaging live esports offering is paramount for us.
SBC: As a relative newcomer to the market, what opportunity did you spot from the outside? Where have esports customers been left short by the live odds available?
MS: If you think about the target audience for esports: Millennials and younger generations, they are spoiled by the digital era. When they want to watch a movie, they go to Netflix, when they want to listen to music, they go to Spotify, when they want to watch esports, they go to Twitch. All those channels have one thing in common: content on demand. I watch what I want when I want it. For live betting to be part of that esports entertainment, the industry has been certainly lacking.
Market standard is to bet (uptime) just around 50 per cent of the time when the game is being played. When the game is most interesting and potential comebacks are in place, you just cannot bet. Also what you can bet on is extremely limited, many times just the map or series winner. This has a severe implication on the engagement, volume and eventually profitability. We are completely changing that.
We believe in what we call our three Es: Entertainment, that betting should be. Engagement, that makes it actually entertaining. And experimentation as esports is all about finding the right ways of telling the story about the teams and players. From a betting angle, it is about expressing your opinion and putting some money behind it.
When your voice is not heard, because the lines are suspended or there are no lines for the objective within the game at all, you are definitely not engaged and entertained. One of the esports tournament organisers, WePlay, started to use expression esportainment, which comprises a lot of things we are doing.
SBC: So would you say uptime/increased availability of live markets is the key USP for the Oddin business?
MS: Absolutely. Esports is extremely fragmented when it comes to data and constantly subject to change given the never-ending patches. Without the right infrastructure, access to official data and expertise in place, the calculation of profitable and engaging odds feed would not be possible.
Because of that, we have built our own fully automated and low latency infrastructure with esports on mind. Our experienced team has more than 50 years of combined experience in the area of esports and betting. Last, but not least, we cooperate with official data providers to have the fastest and most granular access to data.
SBC: How are you coping with the COVID-19 crisis? Is the increase on the online side with no real sports balancing the losses from the biggest offline events?
MS: We saw a small drop in content for roughly two weeks, before all esports events, originally planned for venues, switched to be online. Shoutout to all the organisers like Riot, ESL, WePlay and many more to be extremely flexible in this endeavour, I fully understand it was not easy. From that point on, the esports content skyrocketed, mainly in Dota2, followed by Counter Strike.
Many of the operators and vendors were covering even small esports tournaments that they would otherwise do not even touch before the lockdown. Just to have some content. This put a lot of focus on proper integrity monitoring. As we are esports oriented, we have not actually suffered from the decrease in real sports.
SBC: Sticking with the sports angle, what is the future for sports-based esports titles? Do you expect to see audiences ‘revert to type’, or will there be more of a ‘blurring’ of the lines – both between different types of esports content and real vs esports?
MS: Sporting simulators are clear short-term winners of the situation. Games like FIFA and NBA2k were able to attract the volume from sports bettors given their familiarity with soccer and basketball. Before the lockdown, their volumes were nowhere close to mainstream esports titles. Nevertheless, for esports, it is quite valuable that these titles were able to bring sport bettors closer to esports.
That being said, I have a lot of doubts on the future of esports simulators and their sustainability. I do not expect anybody to follow players of those matches closely, which is the main reason why sports and esports, and betting on them, are so popular. You follow your favourite teams or players and bet on or against them. In sporting simulators, I see more parallel to virtual sports, where two “anonymous” teams or players play each other.
For core mainstream titles like Counter Strike, League of Legends or Dota2, I am not worried about any decline at all, quite the opposite, the situation provided an additional boost in their growth.
SBC: And just finally, if you could state one aim for Oddin in 2020, what would that be?
MS: Building strong partnerships. We have already been integrated with OpenBet, a platform from Scientific Gaming. They have selected us as their preferred esports solution given the number of live markets and uptime we are able to provide. Given that, we are speaking to tier one operators on their platform that recognised the eminent value we can bring to a sportsbook.
At the same time, we are in discussion with other platforms, gaming groups and individual bookmakers with the aim to significantly improve their esports offering. At the end, we want to set the new standards for engagement within esports betting.