Even before the Covid-19 pandemic took a stranglehold across the globe, the esports betting industry was already in rude health. However, the fact that many sportsbooks saw their traditional betting markets wiped out overnight earlier in the year, saw many focus their attention on esports which, by and large, was able to weather the storm effectively.
Since the pandemic began, esports betting has increased markedly and an increasing number of providers are now looking to offer at least a rudimentary, if not extensive esports betting experience to their customers.
Not unsurprising considering that esports betting revenues are expected to double from $7 billion in 2019, to $14 billion in 2020.
However, is it simply a case of sportsbooks now switching over their focus to esports and offering equivalent markets on that? Or do they need to rethink their approach to esports betting to better fit in with the demands and requirements of a typical esports betting punter?
It is an interesting question and one that could have major implications for non-specialist companies within the esports betting industry because of one key reason and that reason is that the current esports bettor does not typically engage in the same way with esports as traditional sports bettors engaged with sports betting.
A focus on Live Esports betting
While many sportsbooks offer In-Play betting on a range of sporting events, the main focus and thrust of betting markets for punters in sports betting remains the pre-match betting markets. In sports betting terms, In-Play betting is still relatively niche, although is growing markedly in popularity.
However, in a recent interview, Ondrej Silhavy from RTSMUNITY, an esports betting odds provider for many companies in the esports community, revealed that far from betting on pre-market bets, most esports punters wagered on Live Esports Betting instead.
In the interview in SBC Magazine from October 2020, RTSMUNITY reported that from their calculations, between “80-90% of betting volumes on esports is done via live betting.” That is a staggering statistic and has massive implications for companies engaged in this market.
Essentially, this means that your typical esports betting punter has little interest in standard pre-event markets, and instead they want to focus much more on Live Esports Betting.
That kind of makes sense. The fast pace of esports gaming means it is often frantic, ever-changing, and somewhat volatile. With players and viewers of esports used to relatively immediate results, it is not unexpected therefore for them to want similar fast results with their esports betting. While pre-match events can’t typically offer this, there is no doubt that Live Esports betting can.
Indeed, RTSMUNITY stated that if a provider doesn’t have enough Live Esports Betting available for their customers that they “cannot be competitive with an uptime of 40-50%. Sooner or later, customers will go to the competition. Remember that esports fans and millennials have low brand loyalty, they don’t have a problem switching to different betting sites, if it brings them more comfort.”
RTSMUNITY’s observations about Esports bettors generally preferring rapid-fire Live Esports betting markets is an opinion shared by many others within the industry. The CEO of esports book service Rivalry, Steven Salz, echoed those sentiments when discussing the makeup of a typical esports betting punter.
“They are the internet generation, born in the mid to late ‘90s and with that comes much, much higher expectations on user experience.” Stated Mr Salz.
“Not just overall design but reducing friction at every step of their user journey. Their expectation is to have a little to no friction rapid wagering experience and this is the huge challenge in servicing this audience as we must balance that with regulatory obligations.”
“As a demographic, they are more fickle, quicker to be frustrated and need to have surprise and delight throughout, not just a mechanical betting service.”
“The rate of change in your product must be significantly higher than a static spreadsheet-like experience of a traditional sportsbook as a result,” Mr Salz concluded.
So the message for non-specialist esports betting service is clear; ensure that you include a heavy percentage of live esports betting options in your esports betting service, or run the risk of alienating the very audience that you want to attract.
That is not to say that standard pre-event bets are unnecessary; there are a number of punters that will still engage with these longer-format bets, notably those sports betting punters first dipping their toes into the esports betting market.
However, to attract the core punters, it seems that a strong focus on Live Esports Betting is absolutely essential for the long term success of any esports betting site.
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