Speaking to SBC, GG.BET CEO Dmytro Voshkarin discusses how the esports basketball and esports football products are providing new betting opportunities for its players.
SBC: Can you tell us a little bit about the esports basketball and esports football products you have available on your platform?
DV: Virtual sport is a comparatively new phenomenon even in the context of esports, which is a young sector in itself. Essentially, we’re talking about a computer game in which two virtual teams controlled either by real players or artificial intelligence compete against each other.
Esports football matches are usually played in a football simulator like FIFA or PES, in which the outcome of the game is decided by the skill of the player at the computer or the functioning of an algorithm, respectively.
Despite its novelty, and even with all the other kinds of gaming entertainment to choose from, virtual sport already has a sizeable fanbase of its own. There are several reasons for this. The first and perhaps most significant is the ability to place fast bets and get fast results. For comparison, a “traditional” football match lasts at least 90 minutes, whereas an esports football match is over in 12 – short enough that you can place a quick bet before going to bed or during your coffee break.
The second reason for the popularity of virtual sport is that there is zero chance of results being rigged when a game is played by AI. Match-fixing scandals will occasionally arise in any sport, but in AI matches, the human factor is excluded. For many bettors, these are both excellent reasons to opt for betting on virtual matches.
Betting on virtual sport is not unlike playing at a casino in terms of the thrills involved. Unlike in other sports, there’s no need to keep track of players’ fitness, the latest contracts, how the team is playing together, and so on. You only have to look at all the facts and figures surrounding the World Cup in Qatar to understand what I’m talking about. Not everyone enjoys having to think about all that. Instead, they turn to virtual sport to try their luck and have a bit of good fun.
Actually, there is one other advantage of virtual sports that I should mention, which is that games are played 24/7. In other words, no matter what time of day a user visits the GG.BET site, he’ll always find something to bet on.
We paid attention to what our audience wanted and decided to focus on fast matches played by AI. Today, we offer unique tournaments set up by our very own team at GG.BET. Our esports football is available in four separate leagues: Elite League, World League, World Cup, and Volta.
In the first three, the participants are virtual clones of famous European clubs and national teams. Volta differs in that it’s designed to resemble five-a-side street football. Imagine the kind of game that would typically be played in the courtyard of an apartment block, except it’s Messi and Ronaldo out there, scoring silky goals with their signature flair. Volta is ultra-exciting and dynamic, and matches last just six minutes.
For every esports match, we put together the widest possible selection of betting options. We actually offer as many bets as we would for a World Cup final. The same applies to esports basketball, for which we have our own NBA league. Plus, we regularly update the line-ups and balance of our teams. Every season is different: one player’s level might drop, whilst another peaks. GG.BET makes sure that these changes are always up-to-date.
SBC: Have your basketball and football products always been a mainstay in your portfolio, or have you found a rise in demand for these products since the pandemic?
DV: We launched virtual sport on GG.BET around three years ago – not long before the start of the pandemic, as it happens. Back then, we were seeing growing demand for this kind of betting from our clients, and GG.BET decided to satisfy this demand.
It is certainly the case that while the majority of countries were in lockdown, stadiums closed and teams stopped training, and the demand for virtual sport skyrocketed. The number of bets placed on esports football tripled. Still, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Covid is responsible for this type of betting developing in the way it has. If we take a longer view and look at the period from the moment virtual matches were launched in 2019 up to today, the number of bets processed by GG.BET has increased seven-fold. In other words, growth is stable and we expect it to remain so for several years to come.
SBC: Do you find that esports versions of “traditional” sports appeal to particular demographics of players? If so, how can you cross-sell sports such as DOTA2, CS:GO, Valorant, and so on to these players?
DV: I wouldn’t say that betting on virtual sport is characteristic of any audience in particular, although there is a small correlation between country of residence and the matches a user chooses to bet on. European users generally bet on esports football, whereas bettors in Brazil and the Philippines prefer to bet on esports basketball.
Unsurprisingly, users usually choose teams from their own country or region. For example, customers in Norway and Denmark show far more interest in betting on Norwegian and Danish teams than on Asian ones. Our team is responding by broadening our selection and is increasingly able to offer users matches involving their own national teams.
When it comes to any division within our audience between fans of virtual and other types of sport, I would point out that everyone seems to enjoy betting on esports football, from gamers who have racked up thousands of hours of Dota 2, to fans of the “traditional” game.
Since these bets offer different experiences, our users will frequently place them one after the other, or even at the same time. And why not? While the footballers leave the pitch at half time and the broadcast switches to ads, there’s nothing stopping you placing a bet on a Volta game that lasts just six minutes. Conversely, if you’re planning to spend the evening betting on virtual sport, why not also place a bet on a longer Valorant match? It’s clear that these different kinds of sport complement each other and combine to give the user a more action-packed and thrilling experience.
SBC: GG.BET has made a huge marketing push into Dota 2 in 2022. How important is it to continue diversifying your offerings alongside the more targeted campaigns?
DV: From a business perspective, promoting the brand to the huge Dota 2 audience is a logical and entirely natural step. We see increasing GG.BET brand awareness as a way of getting bettors onto the site, at which point we can offer them all kinds of markets, bets, bonuses, and tournaments. In other words, by promoting Dota 2 or CS:GO, we’re not limiting our potential audience so much as focusing our efforts.
Of course, we are running other campaigns alongside this to attract other audience segments. For example, this year we put together an extremely broad selection of betting options for the FIFA World Cup and ran a cross-promotion directed at an esports audience.
As I mentioned previously, from a betting perspective, these different kinds of sport don’t compete against each other. Rather, the combination adds up to a fantastic experience for our users.
SBC: How are you using AI technology across your platform to create a more exciting gameplay experience for bettors?
DV: This is a particularly far-reaching and interesting development. Virtual sport, as already discussed, is one of the most obvious examples of the use of AI. The fact that these matches are simulations allows us to foster trust in both the results and the bookmaker. We once carried out an experiment in which we held virtual sports matches with identical teams, but one was played by people and the other by computer programs. As it turned out, the matches played by AI always attracted more viewers and more bets – sometimes as many as 10 times more.
Another example is live bets. GG.BET’s selection of markets is considered one of the most dynamic in the esports match arena. The speed at which we can update our markets is achievable thanks to the AI that helps our traders analyze the probabilities of outcomes and offer live odds that are more attractive and realistic.
There’s also a role for AI in the platform’s user interface. In summer 2022, we launched an exciting new feature in the form of a personalized events feed that is entirely AI-generated. Algorithms developed jointly by our developers and esports traders analyze user preferences – what games they like, what bets they make most often, what teams they choose – and these then become the basis for an upcoming events feed tailored to each registered user.
In addition to the above, AI is used to analyze how users engage with the website interface, allowing us to see which sections are viewed most often, which areas are working well, and which aren’t so successful. This data is automatically collected and passed along to our brilliant team, who are constantly working to improve our user interface and applications.
GG.BET isn’t shy when it comes to implementing high-tech solutions. Our goal is to ensure that every one of our users has a truly excellent betting experience, and we use every available tool to achieve this.
SBC: Can you give us a sneak peek into GG.BET’s plans for 2023?
DV: We have a great many plans in a number of different areas. On the one hand, there are new markets we’re preparing to enter, to which end we are busy localizing the site and our app, and training our customer support team.
Our developers are working hard on updating the functionality of the site to ensure that it remains easy and intuitive to use. We want to get as far as possible from the table-of-odds look of many betting websites. Every time the GG.BET interface is updated, it looks more and more like a gaming platform.
On the other hand, 2023 brings with it a new betting season. Our marketing team is already busy lining up surprises and promotions for the entire betting community. We’ll continue to work on exciting, engaging projects to delight big tournament audiences and develop brand awareness among new audiences.
There’s also some exciting news on the virtual sport front: GG.BET will soon be launching Volta Rush 3v3, a unique three-a-side street basketball game. It’s going to be a blast!