Do eSports represent the future of Sports Betting?

January 01, 2018

- Grant Whittington

Whisper it quietly, but the ever-expanding eSports market is set to change the course of sports betting in the future.

ESports have taken the online gaming market by storm during the last five years, with competitors able to win huge cash prizes and prestigious tournaments now broadcast across the globe.

With these points in mind, the next logical step for the sports betting market to fully realise the potential of eSports and create a platform for mutual growth. In this post, we’ll explore this in further detail and ask how has this market has evolved so rapidly?

ESports by the numbers – A stunning growth market

If you’re unfamiliar with eSports, this is a modern form of competitive gaming that leverages popular video games. ESports assume the form of organised, multiplayer video game tournaments, where both professional and amateur players can compete either as teams or individuals.

According to Newzoo, which happens to be the global leader in eSports and mobile intelligence, the eSports economy is continuing to grow at a truly frightening rate. By the end of the 2017, it was predicted that this global marketplace will have grown to a cumulative value of $696 million, which represents year-on-year growth of 41.3%.

This growth has much to do with the growing popularity of eSports, with the market’s global audience set to reach an estimated 385 million by the end of this year. This will include 191 eSports enthusiasts and a further 194 casual fans, while these numbers are set to increase by 50% between now and 2020.

By this time, the average revenue generated per eSports fan will break the five-dollar barrier at $5.20. It should be noted that this figure is restricted by a lack of surrounding commercial activity and the fact that the eSports market remains entirely separate to the sports betting alternative.

This will encourage brands to invest incrementally larger amounts in eSports in the years ahead, with the total amount spent on advertising, sponsorships, media rights and prizes likely to more than double between now and 2020. The majority of this will be spent on securing lucrative sponsorship deals, while sustained investment is likely to send the total value of the market soaring beyond $1.5 billion in the next two years.

Who are the major players in the market?

This increased investment secures higher prize funds, which in turn serve to enhance the competitive element of eSports and its appeal to a wider, more casual audience.

Blizzard’s annual BlizzCon tournament showcased this exceptionally well in 2017, as it truly celebrated the growth of this marketplace and provided an outstanding platform for the leading developers within this space.

We saw another successful year for the brilliant Rogue, who arrived at BlizzCon having already won two championship titles in 2017. He was the early favourite to win the prestigious Starcraft II World Championship Series Global Finals and lived up to his promise with a superb 4-2 win in the showpiece match.

Some of the world’s top eSports teams competed at BlizzCon, while several nations also did battle in the hotly-anticipated Overwatch World Cup (which South Korea eventually won in a keenly-contested match-up with Canada). The experienced MVP Black also performed superbly well while winning the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship Finals, as they saw off the equally talented Fnatic 3-1 in a high quality showpiece.

Another key favourite of BlizzCon is the World of Warcraft Arena World Championship, which this year was won by the European-based side ABC. They swept aside Panda Global in the single most decisive championship match in the tournament’s history, despite facing off against a hostile crowd and some outstanding opposition. This was one of the most watched tournaments of the year and unsurprisingly boasts a cult following that is hard to ignore.

BlizzCon also deserves a mention for the rare clash of two legends in the Ultimate Title Fight. Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong and Kim “Bisu” Taek Yong, who saw their legendary careers overlap, faced off in a best-of-five exhibition match based on the StarCraft legend that helped them to make their names. Typically, the contest went to a fifth game decider, during which Bisu finally began to read Jaedong’s aggressive strategy to claim the title.

What about ESports and Sports Betting?

When it comes to eSports and sports betting, there’s a common misconception among fans. More specifically, it’s important to recognise that punters have been able to place wagers on eSports events for years now, although this is not an aspect of the sport that has involved any promotion or organisation from the market’s major players.

Similarly, it’s fair to say that sports betting brands do not promote eSports wagering as prolifically as other disciplines; this has created a distance between these two entities that remains to this day.

Make no mistake however, betting on eSports has been the hottest talking point in the real money gaming industry for more than five years now, with this undoubtedly representing a vast ocean of opportunity and incredible potential.

During this time, some traditional betting companies suggested that eSports wagering was already its seventh biggest global search in terms of betting volume, ranking higher than golf and tennis. As eSports revenues do not include the money generated through wagering though, it’s difficult to quantify the amount bet on tournaments across the globe.

With this in mind, there is clearly a huge demand for eSports betting in the digital age, so it’s the duty of the market leaders within these spaces to leverage this and optimise their revenues. In fact, many new bookmakers now include eSports as part of their offering.

ESports brands certainly have a unique opportunity to merge their industry with online betting models in a way that traditional sports cannot, which would represent a revolutionary move for those involved.

From the perspective of sports betting brands, rising demand and volumes will empower them to promote eSports wagering more prolifically, creating a scenario where the full, money-making potential of the market is realised.



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