Rushlane and the future of Rivalry, an interview with Steven Salz

Posted on August 20, 2021 - Last Updated on August 23, 2021
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Rivalry, the sports and esports betting site has just debuted their very own massively multiplayer online gambling game (MMOGG). That might sound a bit crazy, but it looks like the next big thing for esports betting and gambling.

The new gambling game is called Rushlane. It was developed in-house at Rivalry and is aimed at a younger, esports-focused audience. They want to emulate the experience of playing a multiplayer game or interacting with a Twitch stream.

Rushlane is a cyberpunk-themed racing game that wants to combine the social interactions of an MMO, with the graphics of a modern AAA game, and the mechanics of a casino game. You can access Rushlane through Rivalry’s website and instantly play with thousands of gamers across the globe.

We spoke with Steven Salz, the CEO of Rivalry, about their new game and what’s next for the company.

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ESB – Why did you create Rushlane?

You’ve seen this Twitch genre around casino and slots and the perception of them, we have not historically and do not currently offer slots because we feel that it can create negative behavioural loops.

Rushlane was created specifically to be a departure from that and be super casual. People can sit and play, I don’t know, three or four races and put down three or four bucks, that’s it. The whole thing takes ten or fifteen minutes, and they can go back to whatever they were doing. It should be quick and fun. That was really the design of it.

ESB – Are esports fans more likely to engage with sports betting over online casino games and gambling?

We definitely found that they are more interested in sports betting. There is certainly a cohort that wants to play slots and table games and we do see some demand for that, but I would say that the generation that is coming into esports betting right now is predominantly interested in the esports betting component. They might be cross-sold into it by other operators when they have become more familiar with it but that is not something that we do.

If you look at the mix of the revenue line for an esportsbook I think it is going to be 80/20 or even 90/10 sports betting to casino. Whereas if you look at a traditional sportsbook, one of the large publicly reporting guys, it’s 50/50. They will do as much business in slots and tables as they do in sports betting. I don’t think that’s going to be the case for Rivalry for a very very long time. Our roadmap doesn’t include casino and slots right now, we want to make all of the experiences on our site as good as they can be.

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ESB – They just aren’t interested in basic slot offerings.

I don’t think a 22-year-old wants to play an Egyptian-themed slot machine, that’s just my gut. We do see some operators that do stuff with esports. They might do an esports skin. It might have a DOTA, CSGO style sort of skin. It’s the exact same thing, it’s still a slot machine. I don’t think that fools anybody.

ESB – Why is Rushlane different from the other online casino and gambling games?

Rushlane was built in the Unity Engine, it’s fully legal and fully fair. It’s like these games that you see on Twitch where you enter the game on chat by typing “!play”, Rushlane is a lot like that. In fact, it’s so similar that when streamers are promoting it, their Twitch chat will start spamming “!play”!

It has physics-based RNG. All casino games have to be provably fair, so the number generation has to be fair. The way that Rushlane is fair is that it is based on the physics engine of Unity. Players are in monocycles going down the track, they hit off each other, different powerups, and explosions and the way that they react to that is based on the physics engine. We have run hundreds and thousands of games with the testing house to prove that it is completely fair.

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ESB – Basing your RNG on a game’s physics engine seems a lot easier to digest, especially for esports bettors.

Slot machines are also truly random, and they do have to go through rigorous testing, but it is a different sort of random. It’s a line of code, whereas ours is a physics-based environment similar to what developers would use when creating a game.

ESB – What is the future for the esports and esports betting industry?

Like any other web-based product, the best tech wins. We allocate a huge amount of effort to updating the site like the betting navigation. We have a system called Quest, a role-playing game that sits on top of Rivalry, we are adding a ton of new features to that.

We will be expanding Rushlane and adding new games in the same universe and part of the same lore. Similar structure with the physics and Unity-based games. There is a huge amount of expansion to make it more exciting, engaging, and entertaining.

However, we want it to be casual. We are aiming for people betting a similar amount to what they spend on Uber in a week. We don’t want people betting in the same way that their parents did when they would get their paycheck and drop a couple hundred bucks on the horse track. That sort of betting is not consistent with what we want to build at Rivalry.

ESB – What about esports in general?

At a more macro level, what we see is League of Legends, DOTA, Counter-Strike, etc are all still dominating, they are 90 to 95% of all esports betting. We are seeing that Valorant is increasing in prominence. I think that will get more and more popular and get even more into the mainstream.

I think North Americans and Europeans don’t see it much but mobile esports are growing for sure. Our view is that at least two mobile titles will break into the top five most gambled esports in the next 24 months. Mobile is going to take center stage in a much more meaningful way than it already does. Their player base is huge, I saw the other day that the new Indian version of PUBG just crossed 50 million downloads.

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ESB – What about the media side of your business?

That is a pretty significant focus for us. We have 20 plus social media properties, and we sponsor over 150 content creators. We put a lot of time and energy into the media side of the business.

It’s also not betting content. If you go to any of our socials or our YouTube channels you will not come across a single piece of betting content. We are just trying to create great content that people want to watch.

The sports betting business model allows us to invest in some great talent and featuring them in videos that we think are compelling. I think people should check out a new series that we just launched on our CSGO channel called The Rivalry. We pit two fans against two pros. Big pros will face off against fans and whoever loses has to read out a humiliation script. It’s a bit meme-y and ridiculous but we just want to constantly try stuff like that.

ESB – What is next for Rivalry?

We are definitely spending a lot of time and energy on mobile esports. To our knowledge, there is no sportsbook today that offers a mobile esports betting product of any considerable scale or size. There are some that just offer outrights for massive mobile esports tournaments. A really deep great mobile esports betting offering is something that we are really focused on and want to do within the next four to six months.

We also want to enhance Rushlane. We are operating it like a videogame. We want to have constant feature updates similar to patches from videogames. We are adding new stuff like custom dances for players, emojis for their racers, different ways to interact with other players. We are also adding new track segments all the time.

We want to build out the lore and make it deeper. It’s kind of quirky because it is super atypical. Sportsbooks have not historically thought of casino games having a deep game lore. There isn’t much story behind an Egyptian-themed slot machine.

Final Thoughts

After talking with Steven, it’s obvious that Rivalry is dedicated to being on the bleeding edge of the esports betting industry. For some, Rushlane may seem like a gimmick but for the younger audience who is more interested in streaming and gaming, it makes a whole lot of sense.

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Andrew Boggs

Andrew is a Northern Ireland based journalist with a passion for video games. His latest hobby is watching people speedrun Super Mario 64 and realising how bad he is at platformers.

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