iGaming 2023: Will Esports Continue to Lead the Popularity Contest?
Despite concerns that it may have simply been just a Pandemic-driven bubble, the esports sector has continued to flourish and grow in popularity, especially from a fan engagement perspective. Now, sportsbook operators are faced with the challenge of finding authentic ways to attract and convert this growing audience into satisfied punters.
Myroslav Sorochenko, CFO of market-leading esports content provider Betbazar, shares his thoughts with us on what factors are responsible for driving the esports sector forward, and more importantly, how we as an industry can best take advantage of the opportunities for growth.
How can operators take best advantage of the relentless growth in esports popularity?
“As a result of the dynamic industry development and wide availability of digital technology, esports has been enabled to consistently grow, in regard to both audience and revenue generated.
“With over half a billion esports fans in the market and more than 1.5Bn USD being generated annually, it’s impossible to ignore the great potential of this sector. There’s a great opportunity for operators to expand their brand awareness and increase product revenue.
“To take best advantage of this, operators need to take the time to understand their audiences’ behaviour and interests, which are different from traditional sports fans. Through doing this they will be able to find the best ways to stand out from the competition with unique and relevant promotions, depending on the game. The sector is growing fast and will quickly become saturated, so speed to market is also very important if an operator wants to get the best advantage. At Betbazar, our esports products are tailored and ready-made for operators hoping for a rapid launch.”
What has been the core driver in the rise in the popularity of esports?
“According to recent market estimates, today, over 2 billion people are familiar with the term, esports. Suggesting that the esports sector is well on its way to becoming a mainstream spectator sport, which brings along with it great opportunities for growth. Since the onset of Covid -19 in 2020 which caused a total absence of live sporting events, esports was able to gain a whole new legion of followers who were on the hunt for live sporting action. The sudden influx of new spectators meant that more money was invested in teams, tournaments and prize pools. So now, even though traditional sports are back available, many people have now witnessed the fun and dynamic game content esports has to offer with games such as DOTA2 or CS:GO and have now been converted, boosting the general audience on a long-term scale.
“As a result of this, there are an increasing number of brands seeking to be associated with teams and organisations in the sector, which in turn brings more money, allowing the market to grow further, producing better quality content and attracting even more fans.”
How do you see esports fitting within an operator’s online offering?
“Operators will already be used to engaging with traditional sports fans, but esports fans are completely different so it’s difficult to make it fit into their current online offering.
“Offering esports in your product range is an opportunity to attract a completely new, younger audience. Traditional sports bettors, on average, range from 27 – 50 years old and esports has the potential to widen this bracket significantly. Offering esports should be looked at by operators as an opportunity to usher in the next generation and secure long-term growth with an authentic market offering.
“Younger audiences are easier to convert because of their curiosity. So, at a time when everyone is looking at a competition like the World Cup, even people who usually don’t bet, there’s never been a better opportunity to capture peoples’ attention and introduce them to the exciting new world of esports!”
The esports market is said to be worth £1.7 billion and is expected to rise to £10.6 billion by 2030, what can operators do to capitalise on this growth?
“In order to best capitalise on this growth, I believe operators should be concentrating on a few key factors. I think the most important aspect is research and development. This will provide the operator with a larger base of expertise in user behaviour and preferences. Once operators learn how to communicate using an authentic esports language, their ability to engage the growing audience will increase also.
“New technology such as virtual reality will also be a useful tool that can be leveraged to engage a new audience. Perfect for interacting with new platforms in the Metaverse where gamers can experiment with virtually branded products while gaining a real-life affinity.
“One of the biggest drivers of esports growth is the popularity of mobile gaming. In order to really capitalise on the market’s growth, operators need to ensure they include popular mobile game titles, like PUBG, on their roster and offer odds for all the major tournaments.”
What foundations need to be in place to ensure sustainable growth?
“The foundation of sustainable growth is based firmly around trust between all of the key stakeholders, including players, spectators, sponsors and content providers.
“In order to strengthen trust, we as a sector, need to focus on cybersecurity to protect against increasingly problematic DDoS attacks and match-fixing. Through better player protection procedures being implemented, we can ensure our customers have the best possible experience. This is what will keep customers coming back and ensure long-term growth.
“In addition, increased collaboration between operators would be a huge boost to player protection and long-term growth. There needs to be more data exchanged around information on player blacklists or any market irregularities that may impact the odds being offered.
“Lastly, the importance of player education should not be overlooked. Helping players to understand the right balance between virtual activity and real life, mitigating the chances of problematic behaviour in the future.”
After speaking with Myroslav, it’s clear to see that although the Pandemic wasn’t solely responsible for the growth in esports popularity, however, it was definitely a catalyser. The influx of new spectators sparked increased investment into the sector, creating a virtuous circle that the iGaming industry should now be able to leverage from.
With top content providers like BetBazar servicing the market, there’s never been a better time to enter the field and create an online esports community of your own. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for this fast-maturing sector.