How has the eSports market developed in recent times, and are there signs of this once-niche area becoming more mainstream?
ESports has become a subject of intense industry discussion and it is clear from the prominence given to it in on many operators’ websites that it is being treated with both seriousness and with high expectations. The number of potential customers are huge and are only going to increase further as time goes on. Some Sportsbook operators are already talking in terms of eSports being in their Top 10 highest turnover areas and this is without heavy promotional activity or significant development to encourage the rise. Obviously the important question now is 'What is eSports’ actual potential and how big could it be with real investment?’ I would no longer count it as niche, it has moved to being THE mainstream growth area.
Is the rise of eSports a sign that operators and players are seeing potential in newer and less conventional betting opportunities?
I think it reinforces this point, certainly. Where it differs from other new and less conventional areas, is in the fact there is already huge interest worldwide. It could still be seen as a gamble, but due to numbers of players both existing and projected it is a calculated risk operators are willing to take to access an addressable market of this size.
What unique challenges do eSports pose to betting operators, and what are the potential pay-offs?
There are some big challenges to operators as it is very different to traditional sports. There are a number of overarching questions that relate to eSports including regulation, match-fixing, standardised rules and under-age issues. eSports is also many different sports in the traditional sense, the commonality of being a computer game does not mean you could have a League of Legends trader necessarily being a DOTA trader. Then there is the challenge of how to attract people interested in eSports to betting, will traditional promotion techniques work? Does the traditional Sportsbook layout appeal? Are there potential cross-promotional benefits, and how can they be maximised? The pay-off for the companies finding the right approach to these questions is potentially massive. They are going to get to set the standard for eSports offerings and have the chance to gain significant market share. They are also likely to lower their average customer age by appealing to a new demographic. Research shows a much higher level of disposable income for an eSports customer so the benefits of attracting this type of player are clear.
What services and/or products can BetConstruct offer to partners who are looking to break into the eSports market?
BetConstruct was an early adopter, offering eSports to our partner operators since 2013. We also took time to research which offerings would bring additional value to our partners in this field. We asked what can we learn from traditional sports betting, and how we can maximise appeal to an eSports viewer/player who is not a bettor. We are also looking at areas beyond the current market offerings. As a result of this research we recently launched eFootball, using the FIFA 2016 game and a regulated league of players playing against each other online. We also launched streaming and betting opportunities on these matches for all our partners. The thought process was to build a bridge between traditional sports and eSports (FIFA 2016 being a football game) with online matches providing a means of appealing to both sets of players.
How do you see eSports betting developing in the future, in terms of popularity, take-up, and new technological developments?
As I mentioned before, I believe this field will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. We are now an online world and computer games are a huge part of that world. With official tournaments and recognised teams and players it is only to be expected that betting could become involved. I think it unlikely that eSports will ever overtake real top level sports for popularity, that being said I don't think there's a limit to its potential. With a largely US and Asian base I also see its popularity increasing in other regions including Western Europe, which should increase the levels of interest among operators in these regions. In terms of technological developments there is certainly more markets which can be offered as understanding increases relating to what we as bookmakers can analyse, and what customers are demanding. Live will naturally be a huge step forward too when this is optimised. There is also the constant question of making the best multi-platform solutions, mobile and tablet now being at the forefront of all decisions and represent significant market opportunities.