EveryMatrix’s Head of Product Development for sports, Malte Hegeler, examines the esports betting landscape in the time of COVID-19 and beyond.
There has been a lot of ink spilt over the Covid-19 pandemic, the toll it has taken on the sports world and its effects. For the iGaming industry, the most notable consequence is the cancellation of sports events, and 80 per cent drop across the sports vertical which followed within a week.
While the situation looks grim on a global scale, the long-term effect of this crisis is directly associated with how we position ourselves: at the end of the line or at a turning point? For EveryMatrix, we have chosen the latter, as this is a vast opportunity which we spotted amidst the turmoil. And our guesses were correct since at the start of April esports accounted for almost half of our total sports turnover.
With only a tiny selection of sports events available, such as the Belarusian Cup or the Tajikistani Higher League, the growing appetite for esports stood out. And the explanation is straightforward: bettors can either choose to watch a relatively unknown real-life competition, or they can pivot towards something new to them, yet filled with familiar teams and players and much more exciting: esports competitions.
Accelerated growth of the esports vertical
Esports are now more popular than ever in the betting world, but we should not ignore that esports are a global force on their own, with estimates going as far as counting almost 500 million esports enthusiasts in today’s world. More than half of the core audience of esports is represented by people aged between 21-35, many of whom are high-income, full-time professionals. Moreover, now with competitions being cancelled all over the world, we see a massive increase in the traditional bettors moving on to esports. Bookmakers have a rare opportunity and time is of the essence.
While esports represented less than 1.5 per cent of our total turnover before the COVID-19 crisis, by the beginning of April it had exceeded 40 per cent – a spectacular increase. FIFA and NBA2k take the lion’s share, marking 85 per cent of the esports’ turnover and with a higher number of bets, since a match takes just 8 to 15 minutes instead of 2 hours.
There is a huge potential in esports betting, and not just in the short term. This made us decide to take advantage of the situation and make sure we provide timely solutions to bookmakers not just alternatives to real-life sports betting events. Over the past week, we got the entire sports unit to work on this and we made it possible for our clients to launch into esports in just one to two weeks, via our customizable OddsMatrix Esports Hosted Solution and a massive esports events offering.
Next in line is the content – no matter how quickly you take care of the technical issues, the player experience is what matters most. So, we stepped in to help our clients keep punters entertained by providing them with more than 50,000 pre-live events and 25,000 live events, as well as an outstanding, real-time streaming experience available for 80 per cent of events.
The rising stars: FIFA and NBA 2k
Once we have ensured that we can get operators swiftly launched into esports, with a great quantity of engaging sports titles, we also took notice of which content performs better. Not surprisingly, esports games with a crossover to real-life sports are doing great. Although often viewed as tier-2 titles by esports specialists, FIFA and NBA 2k currently have the best adoption rate among traditional sports fans.
Traditional sports bettors tend to go towards the easiest replacers, such as FIFA and NBA 2k esports tournaments. They already know the basics and can familiarise themselves quickly with the particularities of simulations of real-life sports. And a piece of trivia: we noticed that the average bet for NBA bettors and NBA2k bettors was the same. We also see a sharp rise in the number of esports events which now have a chance to go mainstream. For instance, NBA2k Players Tournament premiered on April 3 on ESPN and features 16 current NBA players. In the following weeks our aim is to enrich our offering even more by adding eTennis and eHockey.
Playing the long game
The sports crisis took its toll on bookmakers of all sizes, without exception. And now we can all agree that diversification across the sportsbook is never a bad idea. During a sports crisis, diversification means adding esports content to provide for the players’ needs and expectations.
Which leads me to another thing I want to pinpoint: esports betting is by no means just a damage control solution for the current situation. It is a long-term investment. We are diving deep into developing high-quality data feeds and technical solutions, and the current situation has provided us with a unique opportunity. While we don’t know how long this is going to last, it has given us a clear focus, and we can put our energy into developing the esports vertical now more than ever.
We can see how our numbers are increasing week by week across all segments: game titles and events we offer, betting markets, clients we help with integrating the esports into their offering, and so on. No one knows how or when the current crisis will end. There are many possible outcomes, but I am a believer in the chance this situation has put in front of us, and I am willing to bet on esports staying a success in the sports betting world.
If you have any thoughts to share regarding the current situation, connect with us here and let’s talk.
The original version of this interview has been published by Gaming Intelligence on April 15, 2020, under the title EveryMatrix: Esports as a long-term opportunity.
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