Esports has provided sports betting and gaming operators with some much needed relief during financially unstable times brought about by COVID-19. However, now attention is turning to its validity after the virus threat level recedes and how the esports industry will ultimately fit into the betting sector.
Siim Ühtid, Esports Trading Manager at Betgenius, spoke to SBC News about why the betting industry was correct to turn to esports in these uncertain times, and how competitive gaming can maintain its position as a primary market after the coronavirus outbreak.
SBC: Why do you think the betting industry has turned to esports following live-sport postponements due to COVID-19?
SU: The downturn in global sports coverage is a major challenge for the betting industry. Esports, however, is one area where scheduling remains strong and sustainable, with LAN tournaments being held online. It’s therefore making up a significant proportion of the professional events that suppliers and sportsbooks can cover.
We’ve been offering live betting on esports since 2015 and turnover across titles has grown consistently since then. The vast number of people playing video games at home recreationally means customers often have a strong grasp of game rules and an appreciation of the skill required to compete at the pro level.
Widespread streaming across Twitch, YouTube and various sportsbooks adds to esports’ betting appeal, making it easy to follow the progress of your bet.
SBC: Do you think that the esports betting industry will ultimately benefit from this uncertain climate, or is it only a short term solution while there is a lack of sports offerings?
SU: While we’re seeing a spike in turnover right now, most operators already understand the benefits of investing in esports content. The esports betting audience is growing and diversifying relatively fast, so when the traditional sporting calendar resumes, it will absolutely remain a key part of sportsbook strategy.
Customer cross-sell from football to relevant console titles like FIFA has been a noticeable trend, and it’s one that opens up long-term opportunity. Increased familiarity with these titles means esports could become a staple in customer journeys, particularly as many events are played during gaps in top-tier football schedules.
SBC: With all that in mind then, what are the capabilities of esports betting? And how popular do you think the sector can be?
SU: I firmly believe esports can become a top three betting sport. The fact you can access quality live video footage anywhere in the world, at any time, is a massive plus point. The next step in driving its betting appeal will be greater marketing focus.
SBC: Finally, unlike traditional sports, esports has a wide range of genres; which games do you think will specifically rise in popularity for punters?
SU: Turnover on pro competitions involving console games like FIFA is on the rise, a trend that’s been accelerated even further by the current extenuating circumstances. More generally, multiplayer online battle arena and first person shooter games have proved hugely popular over the last year.
The reality is that esports is a broad term. Customer preferences are diverse and for sportsbooks, that means remaining agile and receptive to consumer trends and changes in demand. Rainbow Six is a great example of this. Although relatively old in esports terms, it’s started to attract more betting activity, in part due to the growth of similar-style games like CS:GO.