iGaming 2022: How to Maximise Engagement with Esports Fans
Time was when esports wagering was thought of as little more than a ‘nice-to-have’ add-on to the core, more traditional, sports betting proposition. But fast forward to the present day and esports is thriving, boosted by the mid and post-Covid-19 pandemic surge in sports books and iGaming. It seems that NOW is the time for this exciting vertical – and the release of its enormous potential.
Esports caters to a unique online demographic and operators face the ongoing challenge of finding the best ways to service this audience through relevant content. This can be particularly difficult for operators from a traditional sports background because the content needs–and nuances–of an esports fan are innately different to those of a football or horse racing fan.
We caught up with Bayes Esports CEO and Managing Director Martin Dachselt to find out more about the future opportunities for growth in the esports industry, and, more specifically, to learn how new, innovative content production solutions can help to engage and sustainably grow your esports audience.
Esports investment has made significant strides in recent years as traditional investors join venture capitalists in exploring the diverse investment opportunities across the industry’s ecosystem. Do you think it’s a bubble that will likely pop or can this level of growth be sustained?
“It can surely be sustained and, if anything, there is a great chance for investments to increase even further. Esports is not even close to reaching its full potential. While viewership numbers in esports are already quite impressive–for example, nearly 100 million viewers tuned in to the most recent League of Legends World Championship, rivalling the viewership numbers of the NFL Super Bowl–it’s the monetization aspect where esports is still most severely lacking. As it stands, esports is quite significantly under-monetized.”
“Through the professionalisation of esports, and by attracting non-endemic sponsors and, quite simply, letting esports and esports fans grow older, thus allowing them to spend more on esports responsibly, this bubble becomes more and more likely to pop. Being established in the mainstream is the next big thing esports needs to prepare itself for.”
Bayes has recently formed a strategic partnership with Las Vegas Sands and BITKRAFT. What does this mean for the future development of Bayes Esports? How will the money be used?
“Our main focus is to grow strategically. For us, this means building up more strategic partnerships, expanding to the US and being a licensed betting supplier in both the US and Europe. To be able to pull this off, we are looking towards about 25 new hires, who will help speed up our product development and distribution, as well as investing more in our product development. Developing innovations that drive esports forward is still one of our main goals.”
How will this strategic partnership impact the future of online esports tournaments and their relationship with the land-based operators?
“As it stands, most land-based operators either don’t have anything specific or they use the same products and concepts from their traditional sports products to address the esports audience. This doesn’t work well and leads to disappointing results.
“Action in esports is much faster and its fans need to be approached in a more tailored and engaging way. Combining our expertise in both esports and more classic sports betting operations allows us to find solutions that can excite the esports audience for a long time.
“We need to work together to find and develop solutions that are specifically made for this new market. Creating win-win situations for both tournament organisers, where they can use new and innovative ways to monetize their product, and esports fans, where they are introduced to interesting, engaging and responsible ways of betting for their favourite teams, is what we are after. Our vast knowledge of both sectors will surely help us accomplish this.”
Do you think that online operators, in general, are putting enough emphasis into generating relevant content for esports fans? What does good content look like?
“There is a difference between doing enough and doing it right. Sure, we can argue that online operators are not putting enough emphasis and effort into establishing esports as a core part of their services, but what matters just as much, if not more, is doing so carefully and responsibly.
“Esports fans, on average, are much younger than fans of more traditional sports. Simply offering esports betting as a service will not suffice, as this target audience differs greatly from more traditional bettors. Simply finding ways of targeting and engaging with that audience will not suffice either, as betting operators have a responsibility to offer their services with care and prevent underage and irresponsible gambling.
“Right now the vast majority of online operators do not seem to think about these unique issues at all and most have instead decided to treat esports like any other traditional sport. If online operators want to establish esports within the sports betting industry, and if they want to offer enough relevant content for esports fans, they need to make an effort in trying to understand this new target audience and what it actually is that they can offer them.
“Esports games are much faster, change much more often and have tremendous nuance. There is no way the services offered by online operators should look exactly the same in esports as they do in football. Yet for most online operators the situation is the same as it is for land-based operators: for them esports just don’t have the same level of relevance.”
Operators and game providers are always looking for innovative ways to engage the esports audience with fresh content. How can tournament organisers and data providers work better together to help this process? Tell us how “Project V”, for example, is a prime example of this?
“We are always on the hunt for innovative ways to use our data to create a better, more entertaining user experience. The action in esports is complicated and casual viewers need support to understand and enjoy the gameplay to the fullest extent. Overlays with statistics, infographics, augmented replays, etc., can have a significant impact on the viewing experience of the esports audience overall.
“Our newest technology, “Project V”, is the latest of these innovations that will improve the experience of fans. “Project V” automatically synchronises videos and data from esports matches. Paired with some meta-information, this does allow us to create a database full of interesting clips and highlights that can be utilised to offer the esports audience a unique and engaging form of content. With Beyond The Summit we will develop and provide content generation tools based on technologies from Bayes – e.g. an automatic Twitter post at a pentakill with a short clip, clips of older highlights in preparation for a special match (rivals, players), etc.
“We are very excited to be working on this project alongside BTS and we hope our collaborative efforts will lead to some amazing results not just for us, but for esports fans as well.”
Esports gameplay can be complex and difficult to understand, especially for the more casual viewers. This is why providing support in the form of overlays, with statistics, infographics, or even augmented replays, is so vital for fan engagement. This style of content allows the audience to get a clearer understanding of the state of play, making it easy to lay informed wagers, whilst also still being able to enjoy the live-action. This is the key to high-level esports engagement.
As the industry’s popularity continues to flourish, more investment and market growth is expected. Nevertheless, being able to monetise the audience remains a crucial challenge and an area marked for improvement.
With new, exciting content generation initiatives like “ProjectV’, we hope this will become easier and help create a sustainable future for the exciting all-action esports wagering sector.