Author: Sebastian Scheplitz
There are no two ways about it – esports betting has garnered an inexorable rise in popularity over the past several years.
Just going by the numbers, esports betting is expected to breach revenue of $1.5 billion by the year 2020. This, considering the esports betting fanbase is nascent compared to “real” sports, is nothing to sneeze at.
It is very common for average sports fans or people who are not into the esports scene not to have a single clue as to what esports betting is all about, and what can make betting on esports so exciting.
But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed that.
Mandatory stay-at-home orders, rules, and regulations in every part of the world have forced people, organizations, and businesses into a new online and digital paradigm.
Land-based casinos from Macau to Las Vegas were abruptly forced to suspend their operations in light of the pandemic.
Professional sports leagues and events all over the world have been suspended as a preventive measure to help contain the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
As sporting events vanished practically overnight, so have the revenues of every sportsbook all over the world.
That doesn’t change the fact that bettors and bookmakers have been starved for action and wagering opportunities these past months in lockdown – and esports, throughout the height of the lockdowns and the pandemic, was practically the only show in town.
Let’s take a look at this video, which will walk you through an overview of the esports industry.
Now that you have a general idea of what the esports industry is like, let’s do a deep dive into the 2020 esports betting climate and understand why it is fast becoming a priority for sportsbooks – and why the sports betting industry should be paying attention to it moving forward.
What Is Esports?
Simply put, esports is a catch-all term to describe playing video games in a professional, competitive, and organized manner. Granted, video games and competing against fellow individuals is nothing new and has been going on ever since the first video gaming consoles have hit the market.
However, esports is now a multi-billion dollar business, with professional esports teams that train as though they were professional athletes, spending hours on end to play, round up strategies and tactics, build teams that work well, and win millions in prize money in front of millions of screens and attendance worldwide. Anybody up for a round of FIFA 20 or NBA 2K20?
Individuals from esports leagues or teams are pitted against each other in popular retail video games, which are then watched by millions of fans from all over the globe – either by attending tournaments or by streaming over the internet via services like Twitch.
However, it has mostly stayed in the fringes of sports bettors and hasn’t caught the attention of gamblers until recently.
That said, let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of esports.
What Types of Esports Are Popular?
We already know that esports encompasses virtually all forms of competitive gaming featuring video games with multiplayer support.
While the list of esports games, genres, and subgenres is countless, there are some specific game genres that rank among the most popular types of esports. These games thus have the most major tournaments and most significant betting markets – and hefty prize pools all around.
More and more games are being featured as premier esports to bet on. Here are the titles that rank among the most popular types of esports:
- NBA 2K
- EA SPORTS FIFA
- eFootball Pro Evolution Soccer (or Winning Eleven in Japan)
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO)
- Call of Duty
- Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
- Defense of the Ancients (Dota 2)
- League of Legends
- Starcraft 2
- World of Warcraft (WoW)
And, as we will see, it is going to be an important market for sportsbooks to focus on, in light of the events of 2020 and the foreseeable future.
Esports Streaming Platforms
Now that we’ve talked about different esports games that are all the rage these days, it is only fair to talk about where we can stream them as well.
Twitch is, by far, the most successful and popular streaming site for esports fanatics: both streamers and fans alike. According to their statistics, It has an average of more than 1.5 million viewers at any given moment, with 17.5 million average daily visitors on their website. These numbers should be enough to prove Twitch’s notorious success.
From the most popular esports tournaments, online casino games, DJ live streams, and podcasts to cooking channels, Twitch has more than enough content variety to keep you entertained.
That being said, it is not the only pebble on the beach. Some other big names that are dominating the esports streaming scene include:
- Facebook Gaming
- Mixer(until recently)
- Steam TV, and
- Game Launcher
They may be great alternative streaming sites, but none of them is close to the overwhelming popularity of Twitch.
The success of an esports streaming platform partially depends on which big shot streamers are on that platform, because it is a no-brainer that their die-hard fans will automatically follow their favorite players wherever they are streaming from. That is why some companies are willing to splurge a fortune to acquire famous streamers to play on their platforms.
But it is the opposite in the case of the two famous streamers, Ninja and Shroud, when their mothership Microsoft-acquired Mixer closed its doors to merge with Facebook Gaming. All streamers were asked to continue streaming on Facebook Gaming if they wanted to keep their partnership status viable.
However, neither Ninja nor Shroud was interested in signing a contract with Facebook Gaming, which made Microsoft buy out their contracts. With a total of $40 million loss from Microsoft’s side, both Ninja and Shroud earned $30 million and $10 million respectively to not play on the platform.
The Emergence of Esports in the Sports Betting World
While esports has, for the longest time, been sitting quietly in the periphery of most sportsbooks, they are now counted on as the shot in the arm that sports betting markets needed in light of the pandemic’s effects on the sporting calendar.
That’s not understating the fact that esports has become increasingly popular in the past several years. Because it’s come a long way since competitive gaming first featured StarCraft tournaments.
Now, and perhaps more than ever, esports has become increasingly accepted, and has begun to feature more and more games since competitive gaming’s nascent years.
Major esports tournaments and competitions have since been featured in some of the largest venues, streaming to a global audience of millions around the world. And now, more than ever, it has found an ever-increasing audience because people have found watching the world’s best gamers duke it out against each other as a sport.
Part of this rising audience has also found out that betting on such esports events puts them right in the middle of the action.
Just like traditional, “real” sporting events do for their respective audiences. Traditional sports have always been intertwined with betting synergies and interests.
And if there’s anything that the recent pandemic situation has revealed, it’s that esports is the same.
As it stands, the global esports market is already a billion-dollar industry – and it is what is sustaining sportsbooks even as professional sports leagues are starting to ramp up their operations.
Estimates are bullish – after 2020, the sky’s the limit for a niche that was once an afterthought.
Granted, the sports betting industry is extremely competitive nowadays, what with the increasing saturation of online gaming providers. And nowhere is this more visible than in Europe, where there are a plethora of land-based and online books that service the entire region.
That’s why the industry is always looking for the next novelty to constantly attract and retain customers – and esports is proving itself to be just what the doctor ordered.
In an industry whose operations were upended and revenues decimated in the wake of the pandemic, esports is showing its potential to bring in fresh action that has played a big role in how sportsbooks have weathered the storm.
What Are the Major Esports Betting Markets?
Esports is considered to be more popular in Asia than it is in North America. And as it is the most densely populated region in the world, it is expected to provide the biggest increase in the number of potential fans and bettors by sheer numbers. That’s not to mention that China is especially big into competitive gaming.
It is quite literally the biggest esports betting market in Asia, and as it stands, there is still plenty of business and revenue-generating opportunities that abound for the rest of the world.
But that’s true for most traditional sports – that they are only popular in certain areas, apart from the obvious exceptions such as football, tennis, and basketball. But not even these sports are universally popular in certain areas and regions.
This is where esports trumps traditional sports – because most countries enjoy playing video games regardless of which country. And this is where esports can establish itself as not just an important betting market, but as a sport that can truly be said to be universal.
For a sport that has the potential to bring in countless new bettors in the form of gaming fans from every corner of the world, there isn’t any doubt that the benefits of catering to the biggest esports betting markets are yet to be seen.
Nowhere is this more visible than the increasing number of esports events and competitions for practically all sorts of video games that are being adopted in the industry.
This is further supported by the fact that streaming views on platforms like Twitch have never been this popular – several hundreds of millions of viewers watch esports on a daily basis.
There is no other way to go but up. Esports betting is likely to increase in demand from here on out – considering the estimation of upwards of $8 billion worth of esports betting transactions is only for the United States.
Esports Betting vs. Sports Betting
We already know that video gaming is already a competitive sport in itself. But once professional teams and real money start being introduced, things can heat up in a hurry.
There are hundreds of online esports and casino betting apps that allow people from all walks of life to participate in the esports betting market and wager on events from the comfort of their mobile devices.
Esports betting allows punters to bet on an individual player or a team of players, who they think will win a tournament or a match. But just like traditional sports gambling, there are as many betting options as there are in esports games, with as many markets as you can think of.
It’s almost as though the action never skipped a beat for some bookmakers. The adoption rate of NBA 2K and EA SPORTS FIFA among traditional sports bettors has been a huge boon for sportsbooks amid the pandemic.
They offer just as much action as traditional sports betting can, if not more, and offer even more competitive games, as FIFA matches are usually 6 minutes per half, plus stoppages.
For those who are not as familiar with esports games, there are different betting opportunities for players, which include:
- Betting Outrights. The most popular type of action in this market is choosing the outright winner of an event. There are also bets to determine which players will make it to the next stage, not unlike football in that regard.
- Match Winner. Bettors who fancy picking a winner will choose this market. Odds may be fixed price or might be determined by how much action a particular outcome is getting and adjusted accordingly.
- Totals. This type of bet involves a particular stat that is achieved or otherwise throughout the game. It has nothing to do with the outcome at all.
In the end, there is one key difference that separates esports betting from traditional sports betting, and that is the diversity of games on offer.
Major Esports Tournaments Happening in 2020
Esports is constantly and rapidly evolving due to the intense competition and the as-yet uncharted but undoubted potential it holds as a sport and as an industry.
Competitions in esports attract massive live audiences and millions all over the world over platforms via Twitch. This opens esports up to a whole new world of potential bettors and fans, and the only requirement for you to follow it is an internet connection.
Here are some of the upcoming major esports tournaments in 2020 (dates subject to change):
League of Legends World Championship
The League of Legends Worlds is undoubtedly the most popular and most-watched esports event. Last year’s edition drawing over 100 million views and 44 million in concurrent views.
It was undoubtedly its biggest event ever – breaking viewership ratings, offering storylines that fans can sink their teeth into. It also gave us one of the most memorable finals – a shellacking of G2 Esports by FunPlus Phoenix en route to their first-ever championship.
It is the 10th anniversary of the World Championship this year and it is expected to be held in Shanghai. Dates are expected to be from October – November, and the prize pool is slated to be at a minimum of $2.5 million (£1.9 million).
This championship competition is the culminating event of League of Legends esports that sees 24 representatives from each region of the game in an intense competition to win the Summoner’s Cup.
The International 10
The International represents the culminating tournament of the Dota Pro Circuit for Dota 2, whose 10th edition is scheduled to be held in Stockholm this year.
It was initially scheduled to take place from August 18 – 23. However, in light of the pandemic, the new date is yet to be announced.
This year’s edition is set to have a whopping $28 million total prize pool compared to last year’s $34 million, but is nonetheless shaping up to be one of the hottest esports events of the year as it has been for years.
Last year’s Internationals saw viewership peak at almost 2 million concurrent viewers on Twitch and in live attendance.
Call of Duty League Championship 2020
This is the premier pro sports league for Call of Duty, which is sponsored and organized by Activision.
Last year’s championship saw 32 teams slug it out for CoD supremacy and a cool $2 million in the prize pool.
As the 2020 Call of Duty League season is almost coming to an end, Activision recently announced that the Championship Weekend will be held at the end of this August.
This year’s edition features a $4.6 million prize pool, over double from last year’s figures.
Esports Content Localization
It is clear that the esports betting industry is not only a stopgap solution for sportsbooks seeking to weather the storm that the pandemic has inflicted on their industry but rather an important business opportunity that has the potential to become a major source of revenues.
After all, it has driven traditional sports bettors who are hungry for wagering options to participate in it seamlessly, while simultaneously bringing in a new, potentially lucrative audience – esports players and fans alike.
That said, it makes perfect sense to implement short-term actions to take advantage of the as-yet uncharted potential of the esports betting industry which is showing no signs of stopping.
This is exactly why esports, sportsbooks, and online casino providers should leverage the power of esports content localization. This will allow them to tap into the seemingly vast potential of the esports industry by investing in proper translation and localization, and content writing to market their products and services as contextually relevant to their target audience as possible.
Furthermore, being able to localize game-related background info such as storylines, characters, and narratives on all esports games (and the games that have the potential for widespread adoption) should also be considered. This is what makes the game enticing and immersive, after all.
Lastly, localizing industry-specific content such as event news, announcements, and general topics of interest will ensure that your audiences are engaged with valuable, relevant content that is suited to their particular language. This can be done through content like providing information about betting on esports, roster news, changes in odds, and so on.
The rise of esports as a professional sport and therefore as a new betting market especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic represents the entry of a new and promising frontier in the game.
The interest from the traditional sports betting world in esports is unprecedented. It means that there is a colossal window of opportunity for new investors, new ideas, and new players in the field. It’s a thrilling time to be in the esports industry as we see it emerge and blossom into adoption all over the world – we have just barely scratched the surface.
The importance of translating and localizing content cannot be emphasized enough. If you are looking to cash in on this emerging trend that is showing no signs of slowing down, tailoring your esports content for maximum contextual relevance should be a business-critical priority.
How did you like Sebastian Scheplitz’s blog post “Is 2020 the Year of Esports Betting?”? Let us know in the comments if you have anything to add, have another content idea for iGaming blog posts, or just want to say “hello.” 🙂