While casino sign up bonuses are wildly popular at online casinos, and still bringing in the players, real sports betting has taken a huge hit with games cancelled across all team sports. In it's place, the esports industry is blossoming.
The esports industry has surged ahead this year. The digital nature of esports has allowed it to thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic as economic recession swirls around. Crossovers with the MLB, NBA and Formula helped to accelerate esports’ mainstream awareness but bigger benefits came from the wagering opportunities that esports presents.
Worldwide, bettors turned to esports to satisfy their interests in gambling. Gambling operators, whose main source of casino revenue and sports betting vanished almost overnight, adopted esports betting out of necessity. Now, even though traditional sports are returning, esports betting has cemented its place in the world of sportsbooks.
According to consumer research agency 2CV and market researcher ProdegeMR, esports gambling revenue for 2020 exceeds $14 billion. Major bookmakers, however, have been slow to invest in this vertical. The platform must be specially tailored for the esports bettor and the features must be constantly streamlined so that the needs of the audience are met.
There are a number of issues that need to be considered by operators who want to expand into esports. They include:
The vast majority of esports viewers are age 30 and under. They have higher expectations on user experience including the platform's overall design and reduced friction throughout the user journey. That means that the wagering experience needs to be low-friction and rapid – a consideration that hasn’t been a major sportsbook issue up until now.
Operators who want to get into esports need to overhaul the traditional approach on things such as customer support, the bet slip, onboarding and customer interaction. Even small items like wallet visualizations need to be geared towards the audience of young adults.
Some operators who have begun to dabble in esports betting platforms say that, rather than focusing on marketing and top of funnel work it’s a better use of time and resources to simply deliver a top-notch produce. eSports enthusiasts are, in general, a more fickle demographic.
They become frustrated more quickly if the technology doesn’t move smoothly and quickly. Instead of producing a mechanical betting device, it’s better to double down on the core product and ensure that the rate of change is higher than a static spreadsheet-like experience, which is common in traditional sportsbooks but doesn't work for esports betting.
Some of the esports betting operators have turned their operation around and created a platform that offers esports as the core product while traditional sports betting is supplemental. They have made this decision based on the assessment that, even when traditional sports returns in full force after COVID-19, esports will continue to be a strong sector in the sports betting industry.
eSports fans see themselves as a community. By building a platform that puts their needs and interests first, these operators are creating a welcome mat, not only for this generation of bettors but also for the coming generation who is just beginning to enter the funnel.
In catering to the esports crowd, operators are finding that, since many esports fans are also fans of traditional sports, they can capture the full share of the customer’s wagering activities so he'll have no reason to search for another betting platform.
Content can serve as an engagement tool. Today, every B2C company also functions as a media company. To engage the younger generation in a B2C product, it’s vital to develop a community resonance through content and socials within the market.
This can be seen in new platforms’ efforts to engage in a circular ecosystem that supports other businesses. When the platform becomes part of the esports community, it fulfills many different needs by creating opportunities for players, streamers, broadcast companies, casters, etc. As esports grows, so will the platforms that provide betting opportunities for esports fans.
eSports differs from traditional sports in many ways. One of them is that the global esports economy is dependent on sponsorships. The big esports tournaments are broadcast on YouTube and Twitch while esports licensing agreements are much lower than in traditional sports. Investment Bank Goldman Sachs estimates that by 2022, sponsorship will represent 35 percent of the industry’s total revenue.
Zachary Rozga, CEO and Founder at The Consumer Engagement Company, believes that the industry should be wary of being so dependent on these sponsorships. He thinks that the sponsorship model is keeping esports from missing out on significant income. “If I am the brand manager and I want to enter esports tournaments, I can send out a request for proposal but I’ll likely get an absurd number of responses and each proposal will be somewhat identical to an outsider,” Rogza said.
“As the brand manager, you would say to yourself, ‘how do I pick a winner here?’ and you’d be forced to just pick one because it’s your first entry into the market, and you don’t have any easily accessible and reliable data to compare the choices. The problem is, however, when you pick one in a sponsorship model you’re basically all risk and limited reward, because if it doesn’t meet your needs that test is a failure and you don’t have another test to try another way. So you decide esports doesn’t work and don’t buy again.”
In Rogza’s opinion, it’s time for the esports industry to engage advertising professionals to navigate the waters, including those of esports betting. It’s time, said Rogza, to pool audiences – and thereby events. By pooling audiences, esports organizers can partner with sponsors. The ads don’t buy into a single tournament but rather, into a brand. Slowly, says Rogza, the esports industry will build so that the brands, the media houses, the agencies and the betting operators will find that working together is to everyone’s benefit.