Sports betting growth levels have stabilized somewhat after a pandemic-induced spike. Nonetheless, more and more sportsbooks have realized the potential of esports and taken it up as part of their offering, leading to increased demand for better products.
In the past, the industry has struggled with the perception of video games and esports as a pastime for children: a group of customers with low purchasing power. However, as attention to the industry has also seen a pandemic-induced spike, it has become clear that its audience is actually older and more diverse.
Specifically, 30% of esports viewers in the US are between the ages of 25 and 34, according to research by audience targeting company GlobalWebIndex. The average age of an esports fan in the United States is 32, making the industry an all the more interesting demographic for esports betting and other stakeholders. Besides, over 450 million people watched esports in 2021 — an estimated 577 million by 2024 as pointed out data analysis company Statista.
To further explore the betting trends expected to emerge to drive demand in 2022, and how the esports and gaming market will evolve, The Esports Journal spoke with Thomas Ericsson, Abios’ VP of Ratings.
The real-time betting experience
The digital nature of esports puts it in a unique position in the betting space. Every in-game action and movement can be captured as data points from the game’s servers. This creates opportunities for live markets to emerge that simply aren’t possible in traditional sports betting. However, for this to become a reality, the industry must solve the problem of latencyexplained Ericsson.
Esports is typically consumed on streaming platforms such as Twitch or Youtube, amassing 1.6 billion and 517 million hours esports live streams watched respectively in 2021. In most games, some parts of the map are hidden, so competing teams cannot see their opponents’ movements at any given time. To prevent teams and coaches from peeking behind the curtain through live match feeds (known as ghosting), video feeds are often delayed by 30 to 90 seconds.
To be able to create a real-time betting experience, real-time data straight from the server is essential. If someone offers odds or streams that are faster than esports video streams, it could lead to match fixing.
“Conversely, if creating odds on lagging data, a bookmaker may open up to arbitrage opportunities, provided there are other dealers in the market who have access to faster data,” added Ericsson.
This is something the industry should preferably address as a whole, as it currently affects all sportsbooks and providers operating in esports.
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The emergence of mobile esports
Mobile esports made its debut in 2021. According to Statista, its the global market value is expected to reach $1.15 billion (~£844 million) by 2025. How can the sports betting industry capitalize on the growing popularity and profitability of mobile sports?
One way the betting industry could benefit from mobile esports — reach new markets and new demographics — is through its audience which is typically located outside of Western esports markets.
As great as this opportunity is, it comes with its own set of challenges. For example, many regions where mobile esports are seeing the highest growth figures do not have regulated betting. These include India, Southeast Asia and Brazil, where titles such as Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (ML:BB) and Arena of Valor have rapidly developed emerging regional esports ecosystems.
The increase in Internet traffic viewed on mobile devices has led websites, online services and applications to evolve to mobile-first interfaces, including betting companies. A prime example of this in the tech industry would be when Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg redirected Facebook to focus on mobile in early 2012. He began working almost exclusively through his mobile device, with the goal of meet the demand of mobile users.
“People enjoying mobile esports on mobile devices should be able to find a sportsbook that meets their needs,” Ericsson said. “When it comes to betting products included in mobile esports, they already are. Many games match or are very similar to desktop esports titles. For example, Garena Free Fire works on the same principle as Apex Legends or PUBG.ML:BB is very similar to League of Legends (LoL) and so on.
It seems like the inclusion of mobile esports doesn’t have to be a huge leap forward, but rather an extension of what’s already there. For example, ML:BB’s “Turtle” and “Blue Knight” game bosses could be included in a bet offer such as “first team to kill…”, similar to what already exists in League of Legends for the Dragon and Baron Nashor. on Summoner’s Rift.
However, Ericsson warned that while it may seem easy for betting offers to translate across platforms and titles, the differences also need to be considered.
“This difference needs to be accounted for in algorithms and pricing models,” he said, “which makes it extremely important to have the right people with expert knowledge of different games to create the best products. possible.”
Can we customize esports betting products?
Today, many betting operators take a one-size-fits-all approach to their providers. However, Ericsson believes the sports betting industry can take some steps to further personalize its products.
The betting industry is relatively reluctant to change, which has placed most existing sports betting products into traditional sports betting interfaces.
He added: “Our hypothesis is that the esports audience is different from the regular sports bettor in their expectations and user journey. They are demanding new innovations in the space.
Several products that have found great popularity in traditional sports betting have become buzzwords in sports betting. For example ‘bet builders’, ‘player props’ and ‘flash market’. These indeed have great future potential, Ericsson said, however, betting markets are currently plagued with low availability. The likelihood of a player wanting to place a bet on something that happens four rounds in the future is much less than betting on what happens in the current or next round.
He further explained, “Real-time data and proper algorithms are needed to make this as reliable in terms of pricing and risk management as necessary. When creating an odds product, our vision is to bring the sports betting operator closer to the end user.
“We want to create a user journey that is truly engaging for the true esports fan. We believe there is a huge untapped market in this segment. Real-time data and suitable algorithms could potentially make it a viable and reliable solution in terms of pricing and risk management. The ultimate goal remains to bring the sports betting operator closer to the end user.
In the years to come, esports betting could get even better by truly understanding the end user and the esports realm. One way to achieve this is to ensure that their clients have top-notch betting experiences to maintain their margins by striving for high accuracy and precision on odds when creating odds.
In the case of Abios, the company has a long history of creating game-specific data and visualizations through automated, data-driven pricing.
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Tokenized digital content and betting: can they coexist?
Tournament organizers and esports organizations have decided to provide fans with a new way to wager money in esports – through tokenized digital content (TDC). Such content can come in a variety of forms, including through NFTs. However, it is not yet clear where the relationship between tokenized digital content and betting goes.
Skin betting might be the first thing that comes to mind as it has similarities to the concept of tokenized digital content. They are essentially the same thing, the only difference being that TDCs are available on the blockchain, while skins are (usually) not. Skins are non-tangible, cosmetic customizations of different in-game assets, ranging from weapons to character outfits. Skin owners can bet and win via skin bets.
However, the skin betting market has been the subject of much controversy over the past couple of years. It was considered unstable and widely condemned for offering illegal, unregulated and underage forms of betting.
Ericsson explained that skin betting has long “lived in a murky gray area. It remains to be seen whether the same is true for the TDCs. TDCs still have a lot to prove as they are relatively new concepts and uses of the technology. We’ll have to see what happens, but hopefully they can bring completely new and unforeseen opportunities.
For now, with the ever-changing sports betting landscape, Abios’ plan to retain its top-tier customers is to allow for further differentiation between partners.
“We don’t want all Abios partner platforms to look the same,” added Ericsson. “We believe we’ve found a new and unique solution to this challenge – but we’ll talk about that another time.”