Following SBC’s recent look at the growth of eSports, and its 2015 official introduction to the UK, we caught up with Pinnacle Customer Engagement Manager Mirio Mella to discuss the origins of a new burgeoning betting market.
Established in 1998, with its headquarters in Curacao, the online gaming site Pinnacle Sports is an early market leader in terms of providing eSports betting outlets for punters. In December 2014 it took its one millionth eSports bet.
Below Mirio Mella offers an industry expert’s views on the new market, its differences to traditional sports betting, and predictions on its potential.
SBC: With eSports set to take off in the UK in the near future, could you give our readers a little more insight into this world, and explain just how big it is in the US and across much of Asia?
Mirio: The number of global eSports enthusiasts was put at 89 million in 2014* and is expected to reach 145 million in 2017.
Another 190 million will watch eSports competitions occasionally, showing that competitive gaming has evolved to a spectator sport with a fan base comparable to that of Volleyball, American Football or Ice Hockey. By eSports I mean StarCraft 2; Dota2; League of Legends; Counter Strike Global Offensive & Hearthstone. These are ordered in current popularity of betting at Pinnacle Sports.
eSports has become our fastest growing market judged by volume and player numbers; overall it was our 7th biggest sport in terms of volume in 2014.
The level of volume traded has pretty much doubled every year since we began dealing in 2010, and based on current activity this looks set to continue. We took our one millionth bet in December 2014, and expect to get to two million much, much faster.
(*according to a Newzoo report ‘The Global Growth of eSports 2012-2017’)
SBC: Pinnacle are one of the leaders in offering eSports as a betting market, and indeed a belated congratulations on reaching your that millionth eSports bet milestone. How does it differ from traditional sports betting, and what do you envisage for the future of this currently niche market? Will all major bookmakers seek to establish themselves in this field in the near future?
Mirio: eSports bettors are less likely to come from a betting background, given we only started offering it 2010. Our eSports Hub (www.pinnaclesports.com/en/esports) offers a separate destination and experience, and has content to help explain how betting works.
This isn’t to say our eSports bettors aren’t savvy. We currently have about eight traders who handle our eSports markets including ex-Pro Gamers like Jonathan ‘DarKFoRcE’ Belke illustrating the kind of knowledge we need to remain competitive.
Many smaller eSports bookmakers have come and gone since we started offering it in 2010. The odds-setting represents a real challenge, and the audience tends to be unique from a betting perspective. We have overcome both those obstacles to position ourselves as the market-maker for eSports betting.
We are developing our product offering in terms of the different eSports offered – Counter Strike was the most recent addition in July 2014 – with a regular schedule of live eSports betting, which as with other sports is hugely popular, but exceptionally challenging from a trading perspective. Any bookmakers looking to establish themselves will be playing catch-up in all these areas, and will need to create a brand that the eSports community trusts.
We have been keen to build partnerships in the community. Pinnacle Sports became the first major bookmaker to sponsor an eSports event in December 2013 with the Pinnacle Sports Dota 2 Pro-Am (http://www.pinnaclesports.com/esports/pro-am-2013.aspx.). This featured a unique competition, which gave our customers a chance to play against Pros.
SBC: Is it accessible for the layman gambler, and how have you gone about increasing both its accessibility and coverage?
Mirio: Fundamentally eSports betting is no different to any other two-way betting market like say, Tennis. It is normally offered in the form of matchups (team/player A vs. team/player B), but for large tournaments we also offer outright odds (i.e. who will win the event). We also offer odds per map – these are specific to each game – spread markets and live betting.
The basic premise of the games is fairly straightforward – destroying an opponent’s fortress, acquiring gold, buying items etc – but they require extraordinary levels of skill to play, including both strategic thinking and fine motor skills. Matches are available to watch live online but the layman wouldn’t be able to immediately understand what is happening, given the level of complexity, but the explostion in eSports’ popularity illustrate just how engaging they are.
In terms of increasing accessibility and coverage, we have reached out to the eSports community with things like a Reddit AMA as well as trying to educate our own traditional sports’ customers through content on our eSports Hub and specific initiatives like an eSports specific Twitter Q&A.
SBC: In terms of marketing, you recently signed a deal with Team Empire (a very established eSports brand) could you tell us more about that?
Mirio: Yes, we are really excited about the deal we announced in March this year. It is a unique partnership with a huge eSports brand – Team Empire (read the press release here). The multi-platform partnership sees Pinnacle Sports sponsoring Team Empire’s highly successful Dota2 team and offering their large user-base the opportunity to join the growing number of fans who enjoy the excitement of betting on eSports matches.
Pinnacle Sports would love to take credit for it, but it is a happy coincidence that Team Empire pulled off a big tournament success at the joinDOTA MLG Pro League – Dota 2 – Season 1 Championship (April 12th). I would like to congratulate our partners on their success.
SBC: Finally, what are Pinnacle’s plans for 2015, and ambitions for the future?
Mirio: Over the coming months we plan to steadily increase the number of eSports matches for which we offer live betting. We are also actively looking for another sponsorship opportunity, following on from the success of the Pinnacle Sports Dota 2 Pro-Am in 2013.
Our eSports Hub (www.pinnaclesports.com/en/esports) will be getting a big make-over later in the year, reflecting the growing importance to our business, with a particular focus on expanding the unique eSports betting content.
Pinnacle Sports is the number one destination for safe and secure eSports betting, and in 2015 we aim to consolidate that position.
Mirio Mella – Pinnacle Customer Engagement Manager