As esports popularity among punters continues to skyrocket, many of us are now wondering whether it’s possible for this sector to reach the heights of traditional sports betting and how long will it be until it reaches this point?
We spoke with Slava Zhuk, Managing Partner of Betsy Games and CEO First sport Group to hear his perspective on this burgeoning sector and what impact it can have on the traditional sports betting audience.
Being able to attract the next generation of players, often referred to as Gen Z, has been a growing issue in the current iGaming market. Are esports betting products the key to engaging this demographic? Why?
“We really notice the stagnation in the classic channels of attracting a casino audience.
“At the same time, we see an increase in youth streaming platforms. Gen Z is not in the same traffic channels as the older generations that were once a major segment of the iGaming industry.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, esports is one of the biggest interests for young people and since it’s involved with the pastime of this generation, we can find a whole niche here.
“Not only for esports as a sports area but also for the gaming industry where there is a lot of fun entertainment content. It’s also the access to this audience because esport is understandable and accessible for Gen Z.
“In addition, it’s sports as the name implies. Watching esports tournaments among young people is as popular as going to football among previous generations.”
Most of the most popular style games for the younger audience are achievement-based and don’t involve real money gaming. How much of a challenge is it for operators to provide content that appeals to the younger generation if they aren’t as motivated by money?
“It’s super-real to integrate most games for Gen Z into iGaming.
“Actually, it’s already happening on the market. We see that many providers added classical betting mechanics to the gaming industry.
“There’s also a wide range of simple instant games as Wheel of Fortune, Crush, Dice, and other one-click games. It’s very easy to connect all of them to classical mechanics like achievements and bets. Many businesses already seem to be moving in this direction. We can see new brands of instant games emerging.
“Well, even experienced companies launch such games in-house to remain relevant and a young audience really doesn’t like casino slots. That’s why we see the trend of transition gaming in iGaming.”
Is there much of a cross over between Esports and Traditional sports fans? What is the cross-sell opportunity and how can it be best leveraged?
“Of course, there’s a big overlapping of esports and sports audiences. Basically, we observe that the younger generation doesn’t like and doesn’t understand volleyball, handball, and other not-so-popular sports. That audience plays mostly football and basketball, and even then, only on the top 8 European tournaments. 60% of the esports audience is in one way or another fond of classic sports.
“Agree, that’s a lot. If we talk about the overlapping of a casino and a sports audience then it’s about the same. 60% of the casino audience somehow bets on classic sports.
“Not necessarily on a casino platform – they can go to a completely different platform to their favourite bookie.
“That is, the overlapping of sales lies in the fact that sports and esports are already a single organism, constituting a single sports calendar of top events for a year.
“We see that for many of our clients the popularity of Counter-Strike has been compared to football. It means that they can have top content year-round. That’s enough for your audience. You just need to have a quality Counter-Strike and quality football.
“Thus, you create a series of events by which you attract the same audience. They will bet on both football and Counter-Strike.”
Many industry commentators believe Esports has the potential to be equal or greater in size than traditional sports markets, such as Football. Do you think it’s possible and what can brands do to encourage more growth in this sector going forward?
“For 5 years, esports has shown 100% annual growth in the turnover of betting. It’s a very powerful industry in which everything is developing.
“If you look at old classic bookies, on which football has always been popular, esports began to occupy there in the ranking of sports about 5th position.
“On new youth resources, esports ranks second after football. So, we can say that football still remains the leader. But I think that in 3-5 years the situation will definitely change and esports will prevail any sports on products that focus on Gen Z.
“Also, don’t forget that sports are not one game. In this area, each sports game is a separate discipline. Therefore, it’s necessary to understand whether we compare sports with some kind of sports or with all kinds of sports.
“However, in my opinion, sports in 5 years will be close to catching up with classic sports.
“Brands are already doing quite a bit to stimulate esports around the world. The market is oversaturated and overvalued. Players’ salaries and prize pools can be as high as several million dollars. All this is a rather interesting bubble that inflates the sphere with money.
“There are a lot of audiences in this field, and they are ready to pay for it. I think this trend will continue for a very long time.
“Big companies already support and sponsor top esports tournaments. Of course, probably it’s not at the same level as in football, but it’s approaching that.
“The process of stimulation is already taking place.”
From speaking with Slava it’s evident that esports growth is not just a temporary trend, but a vertical that’s here to stay. What’s encouraging to hear is the overlap between the esports and traditional sports audience means that these two verticals can work hand in hand and grow together. According to Slav, esports will reach mainstream levels within the next 5 years so operators really should be incorporating these products into their portfolios if they want to be able to properly cater for the player of tomorrow!