Esports: What’s Coming Next? – Mario Ovcharov, CEO of UltraPlay

The impressive trajectory that the esports sector has been enjoying over the last few years shows no signs of slowing down. Especially since the industry’s bullish run over the last 18months, most sports book operators are now well aware of the huge opportunity this vertical offers but what happens next and how can the long term success of esports be ensured?

We caught up with Mario Ovcharov, CEO of leading esports provider, UltraPlay to hear his thoughts on the future of this exciting vertical. He gives his perspective on future gaming trends, the impact of regulation and most importantly, how operators can best leverage the key growth drivers of the market.

Many people are familiar with the most popular eSports games such as CS: GO or DOTA2 but are there any upcoming gaming titles that operators should be aware of and consider integrating into their portfolios?

CS:GO and DOTA2 have definitely dominated the scene for years, not only in the betting world but in gaming as well. I can say that DOTA2 is slowly giving up its spot of being a top played game due to the fact that the audience is slightly older and newcomers prefer to play lets say League of Legends for their MOBA experience, since the entry is easier and the game itself can be played more casually. If the question is towards the rise of Battle royal formats like Fortnite –  the competitive format that can be interesting for betting doesn’t exist there and it makes it complicated to enter the betting world.

In 2014, UltraPlay started by offering pre-match and live odds just on the three most popular eSports – CS:GO, Dota 2 and League of Legends.

In those past few years, UltraPlay has constantly added new game titles to its product portfolio and we saw that the interest kept on increasing towards new titles. Now, the company offers 34 games, amongst them are Starcraft, King of Glory, PUBG, Valorant, Smite, Arena of Valor, Magic the Gathering, Rainbow Six, as well as the sport simulated games – FIFA, NHL, NBA2k, and many others. The last three increased their betting potential especially over the last year and a half, when the sports were cancelled.

Even though the top 3 eSports titles (CS:GO, Dota 2 and League of Legends) are responsible for more than 60% of the betting volume, extensive coverage is vital as it is the initial impression of the potential bettor. Very much like in regular sports, live betting is responsible for more than 60% of the overall volume. Besides, UltraPlay’s live odds games coverage is not limited to the Golden Trio, but includes: Valorant, Call of Duty, Overwatch, King of Glory, Starcraft 2, Rainbow 6, Rocket League, Warcraft 3, FIFA, NFL, NBA 2k, Arena of Valor, and Magic: The Gathering.

We believe in extensive coverage as the key to attracting many new players hooked up by eSports and the entire scene.

ESIC has been making great progress in creating strong industry partnerships across the globe, helping to ensure the widespread adoption of responsible gaming standards. Do you think the industry is capable of regulating itself or do you expect government intervention at some point in the near future?

I think the ESIC job is more in the integrity part, in terms of the players and teams rather than with betting companies. Betting companies are the ones who provide the information on suspicious betting activity on certain events that helps them approach and investigate the case better.

I think eSports should be looked at as any other sports and the betting should not be treated any differently. There are many more cases of match-fixing on a daily basis in low tier football and tennis, but they don’t get asked each time how they are preventing it. Esports had very few and very amateur cases that never actually made any significant amount of money, unlike traditional sports.

How long will it take for eSports to catch up to the betting levels of traditional sports? Will this ever happen?

It has caught up with popular sports like Volleyball and Hockey and overtook them by far. The fact that there has been only 3-4 years of major boom and interest across the globe, I think it won’t take too long to have its own spot which can compete with any traditional sport in the world.

Editor’s Note:

After hearing from Mario, it seems that although Battle Royale style games are topping the charts for the gamers, it’s not actually translating into betting activity for this genre of game titles. Sports simulation games such as FIFA, NHL and NBA2k are fast becoming a popular avenue for bettors instead, especially since the lockdown when live sports wasn’t available.

Further to this, Mario believes that within 3 – 4 years this vertical may actually outgrow traditional live sports altogether and we’ll all be betting in the metaverse!

Very interesting times ahead, we look forward to seeing this burgeoning industry evolve as more sportsbook operators begin to inevitably integrate esports into their product portfolios.

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