John Gordon CEO and Co-Founder of betting innovation studio Incentive Games, details to SBC audiences that filling live sports void won’t be as easy as bookmakers simply expanding their virtual sports inventories.
Reality bites as COVID-19’s lockdown raises critical questions of bookmaker’s product planning, delivery and all-round engagement capacities.
The landscape of gambling has been changed dramatically by the situation currently unfolding around the world. Operators everywhere are desperately seeking the holy grail which will revive their business during this period of uncertainty and fill the void which has been left by the global pause in live sporting events.
The obvious route, when reality sports ceases to accommodate their customer experience, is virtual reality, and this is where savvy operators can make changes now which will not only impact their short-term profitability but
diversify their offering for years to come.
Sportsbook operators are understandably reeling from the impact caused by the enforced shutdown of their main income stream, with a reported 93% average drop in the number of football bets offered by operators (Source: Online Gambling Quarterly Report) their core business source has discontinued until further notice.
To compensate for this lack of live sports, the trend for operators has been to look ‘here, there and everywhere’ for anything which may hold the key to customer acquisition and keeping the betting activity at a respectable level. Many believe that Virtual sports and Esports, which have seen a notable increase in activity with bets up by 61% since the beginning of the crisis (Source: Online Gambling Quarterly Report), have all the attributes to bridge the betting gap and drive the industry into a new and exciting future.
But operators need to thoroughly research the suitability of such products before they jump on the bandwagon and switch their business strategy. Understanding the complexities of Virtual sports is an essential prerequisite to bringing a different betting variant to their customer base.
Market awareness needs to be a key consideration before the implementation. Insight into whether the technology can deliver a satisfactory experience to specific markets, which may be the operator’s core focus, can be the difference between offering players a real alternative to their natural choice or offering a product which will turn them off.
Emerging markets, such as the fast-growing and vibrant African market pose different challenges to the relative technology-rich European and US regions. While Africa’s status as a gambling environment becomes established, the requirement for a suitable and flexible product for a developing world is a must. A service which is tailored to lower-end technology and low data consumption is appropriate to enable the current demographic full access to everything on offer, creating the user experience which is taken for granted in more tech-advanced environments.
Designing and developing text-based Virtual sports products targeted explicitly at lower specification devices allows players in these regions to engage with games on phones, and browsers (including Opera Mini Extreme), which until this point has been unavailable to many due to technology constraints.
Operators in the region, utilising state-of-the-art technology system such as this, which has been explicitly created to service non-java script enabled browsers, have the tools which can engage potential customers regardless of their telecommunications position.
Diversification of an operator’s product offer and providing a business model which goes beyond the customer acquisition level means a significant improvement to customer retention rates, as well as efficiently monetising their userbase.
Games which require no live sporting data to function suddenly have a vital role to play in an industry lacking the basis of its fundamental business. Products which can action their objective without the external influence of reality, thus enabling players the opportunity to continue wagering and feel the thrill of winning on sporting events amidst this unprecedented sporting interruption, now have a significant advantage and an opportunity to generate a broader appeal. The noise of live sports betting has been silenced for the time being, so Virtual sports and Esports must now stand up and be counted.
Market insiders believe that the total online gambling revenue will decrease significantly during this troubling period and that even if the current situation reaches a resolution in the near future, the knock-on effect across the globe could be seen well into the new year, the consequences for the entire industry must be weathered.
There has never been a better time for Sportsbook operators to ditch its legacy platform and move into a new, completely sustainable product category. A category of betting which does not rely on live interaction is not held back by technology constraints and most importantly, is not restricted by jurisdictional barriers.
The time for Virtual sports and Esports has arrived, and it will change the face of gambling as we know it.
John Gordon- CEO & Co-Founder – Incentive Games