For this month’s Better Collective Spotlight, SBC spoke to Henrik Lykkesteen, the firm’s senior vice president of product and global operations, to look into Better Collective’s longer term view and vision for the esports industry.
In February, Better Collective acquired HLTV.org – the leading esports platform in the world focusing on the popular game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) – for a total price of up to €34.5 million, highlighting the firm’s willingness to develop its esports division. The acquisition of HLTV also showcases the growth of betting in CS:GO in particular, with Better Collective looking to capitalise on its progress.
SBC: What is your long term vision for esports? Is it something you will keep separate from the sports betting side because of the differences in audience?
HL: The popularity of esports is growing rapidly and it is a vertical Better Collective has monitored for a long time. Esports are no longer sports reserved for a small group of people because they have become more mainstream. Also, betting on esports has grown in recent years.
COVID-19 has accelerated the popularity of esports and especially CS:GO as more traditional sports have been paused. Players that typically bet on more traditional sports such as football could test the esports waters and it seems betting on esports is here to stay.
Still, we are very much aware that the esports and CS:GO culture is very unique and that it is paramount that this is respected. This is why it was, and is, a necessity for us to collaborate with experts who have been living within this culture since the beginning. The experts have an inside understanding of the audience and know how to communicate and engage inside the communities.
SBC: Which counties have embraced esports, from a betting standpoint, the most?
HL: Esports are global in nature – however, it is more developed in some countries than others. For example in Denmark, where Better Collective is founded, CS:GO has gained a lot of popularity as the country has been one of the frontrunners in the industry, with leading teams and mainstream media covering the developments rather intensively.
SBC: Was the deal to secure HLTV then considered a strategic acquisition then? Or was this more about testing the water close to home?
HL: HLTV was definitely a strategic deal to secure a leading global position within CS:GO. Even though it is a Danish company and we also acquired the CS:GO media platform dust.2.dk alongside HLTV.org, the perspective of the acquisition has been and is global.
HLTV.org very much supports our strategic move towards becoming a broader based media group, where we are focusing on quality and content heavy sites as well as adding other revenue streams to our historical focus on affiliation. From that perspective, this acquisition was a great fit for Better Collective.
SBC: Why have you opted to focus specifically on CS:GO? And can the game translate to the ‘traditional bettor’ or is it seen as too complex?
HL: We view esports as any other sport. The games within them are, however, vastly different, much like baseball differs from football. But out of all of those different forms of esports, CS:GO seems to be the one that is most translatable to the traditional bettor and one of the esports that have gained the most betting traction from a general point of view. We are very excited about the opportunities that lie within this vertical.
SBC: To add on to that, why should operators invest in CS:GO betting options?
HL: CS:GO is an esport that has a growing audience globally and betting on CS:GO matches is growing as well. As said, esport is gaining popularity in broader mainstream media spreading the interest to more people, and industry reports suggest that it is a vertical and industry that will continue to grow.
Also, the viewer demographic of CS:GO is mainly adults – it is actually older than many would expect it to be. Whereas esports in general tend to attract younger people, CS:GO has a more adult audience, partly due to the fact that the Counter Strike games series have been around for 20 years.
To understand more about the global esports size viewership click here. Additionally, click here to check out recent statistics about esports’ betting market revenue worldwide.