Esports 2021: Finally off the Bench? With Ari Fox of Gameacon

It no secret that the phenomenon that is eSports has been on a steady rise for some years now. The increase in activity the market received over the lockdown was only a boost in a trajectory that this sector was already firmly headed in. But what does this mean for new entrants and the industry as a whole going forward?

We spoke with Ari Fox, Head of leading eSports Conference, Gameacon to understand whether eSports is ready to come off the bench and be the new leader of mainstream sports betting. And if so, how can new entrants truly succeed?

Do you think the peak in activity we’ve seen recently in eSports will continue or will it fall back to more conservative levels once we’re out of lockdown?

“The “peak” as you put it, only became a thing since the Pandemic started.

“Esports was catapulted into being mainstream last year during the early days of the Pandemic and ONLY because conventional sports were shut down. Esports will only rise from here, starting with wagering and the popularity it now has. It is similar to when cryptocurrencies began back in 2012.

“The “opinion” out there from the start of crypto was sketchy, now digital currencies is all the rage.

“Esports, because of Covid, was sitting on the sidelines waiting to be asked to join the game.  When its conventional sports cousins closed down, it was the only option left on the sidelines to bet on. But it has been shaky since there have been large amounts of match-fixing happening, which is currently being addressed. So as esports sorts its issues and proves to be viable – I only see it rising once lockdowns end!”

New social distancing rules make it very challenging for venues such as casinos or stadiums to host the popular live tournaments we’re so used to seeing. What impact do you think this will have on the future growth of the market?

“I believe we will be back to a somewhat normal environment soon. Esports was able to flourish during the pandemic albeit with a lack of regulation.

“It is harder to regulate when tournaments are online, although, with blockchain technology and other anti-cheat software, this is also being addressed. The key here is that casinos should NOT think about having tournaments in their brick and mortar locations at first but START by having tournaments online through their online casinos and their own servers. Then as the pandemic calms down the casino can pull these players back into the brick and mortar locations for in person events and tournaments.”

Some industry commentators believe that eSports still has some improvements to make in regards to player protection and sports integrity. Is this still a problem in eSports and how can these risks be mitigated going forward?

“As I mentioned earlier, esports indeed has a ton of issues to work out, but agencies like the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) headed by Ian Smith, are teaming up with government agencies (like the FBI and others) to catch the cheaters. This is helping solve many of the immediate integrity issues. Also, many efforts in technology are levelling the playing field.

In the very, very close future, blockchain and artificial intelligence will also help with match-fixing and detecting unfair play. However, all of these actions must be promoted to the punter to gain their confidence to place a bet on an esports match.”

What advice would you give to a potential investor into the eSports market? Where will they find the best value going forward?

“If you are looking to invest into the esports market you should have a full understanding of where the market is heading. Also, understanding video gaming culture is very important to understand the target market when investing. If you want to invest in esports it is VITAL that you have people that know what they are talking about and know what they are doing in this space.

“I myself have an esports platform that is being developed and it takes a certain type of investor to understand what they are investing in. We don’t just talk to anyone, we talk to those that understand esports and those that are willing to learn. Everything MUST be transparent and clear before you write that check. If you cannot make your investor understand what they are investing in, then they should NOT be investing in your eSport business. The best value is in the team you invest in and their ability to execute the plan.”

Editor’s Note: From speaking with Ari, it seems the future for eSports is almost certainly in the mainstream. Issues of responsible gaming and sports integrity still linger but as with any nascent industry, it takes time to get the regulatory framework just right, but once it has, the sky is the limit.

It’s important to remember that esports is digital at its core and even brick and mortar should first be looking at how to grow communities online before attempting to get them in their venues in person.

With so many great eSports platforms being developed, such as the project Ari mentioned he’s working on, it’s becoming increasingly easier for new entrants to go live in these markets, but industry knowledge is still vital and should always be a priority for new entrants going forward.

If you want to know more about great ways to improve your esports strategy, then be sure to join one of Ari’s comprehensive workshops as part of the Gaming Operators Academy Network. Click here for more details.

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