With the sportsbook vertical in danger, virtual sports is all set to replace it - but is it a fair replacement?
The Ancient Greeks really knew what they were doing, didn’t they? Of all of the wonderful innovations that shaped our civilisation - the shower, the alarm clock, democracy, modern medicine, the railway, the theatre, central heating, and so on - I think we can all agree that their two most important contributions are organised sports, and gambling on organised sports (…what? You’d agree if you had my job). The first recorded sports bet dates back to around the time of the first Olympic games, but there’s no real way of knowing how long wagering on unscripted events has been a part of human nature. Of course, we all know what happened when society realised how much fun it is to place recorded bets on organised sports. Thanks, Ancient Greece!
Fast-forward to present day Europe – 2,000 years and one world-eating virus later, the commercial sports betting industry has found itself up against arguably its first real threat. Never before in history has there been a phenomenon that endangers every single team sports event on the planet. But sports betting is in our collective blood! We can’t live without it, and we can’t collapse a global multi-billion dollar industry. What are those things that we are becoming increasingly dependent on and moving every area of our lives onto? Ah yes – computers! Naturally, virtual sports have come to the rescue of the entire sportsbook sector, but a lot of doubt still exists about the legitimacy of simulated sports games. Are they fixed? Can we trust them? More importantly, can we trust our money on them?
There is an essential distinction to be made here: virtual sports is not to be confused with the similar vertical of fantasy sports. They both take place online through player avatars, but the way that these games work is very different. To explain the difference and gain a better understanding of betting on virtual sports, let’s first touch on a little bit of basic game design theory. Quiet in the back of the class, please.
All online games fall somewhere on an imaginary scale of control, and the game’s placement on this scale determines how its outcome will be achieved. On one end of the scale, you have games that are based on pure skill, and the outcome of these games depend only on the quality of your performance. There’s no algorithm to blame if you miss a virtual basketball shot, or are bested at a game of chess on an app. You, the player, controls how the game will end.
On the other end of the scale, we have online games that are built with what we call an “RNG”, which stands for ‘random number generator’. These systems, as the name suggests, ensure that the outcome of the game is completely random and based purely on chance. Many video games are designed this way to guarantee fresh re-playability and a variety of storylines. Games built with RNGs are incredibly popular in the gambling sphere as well, as they can be played by anyone regardless of skill level and nobody, not even the designer, knows what the result will be. It’s the same principle as a roll of the dice in Ludo or the click of a tile in Minesweeper. But even within this category, there’s variation in just how random these games are. Take slot reels for example – their RNGs can be programmed to be high volatility (they are less likely to win but the payout is bigger when it does happen), low volatility (you’re likely to win more frequently, but it will payout smaller amounts) or somewhere in between.
What does this mean for the world of sports betting? Well, the definition of a bet is when someone risks something of value on the outcome of an event that is unpredictable. Real sports matches are naturally unpredictable, and we have become acquainted with the tech that replicates this randomness for online sports.
The real magic, however, happens when an online game falls in somewhere in the middle of the scale between skill-based and chance-based – the sweet spot. Sometimes a game is theoretically random but you still have an idea of how it will turn out, based on the skill of the players. If Brazil F.C. were playing against a little unknown local club from the north of England, who would you expect to win? Would that be an exciting bet? A lot of the fun of betting comes from difference of opinion, when the game could go one way or the other. Games that are in the sweet spot are genuinely unpredictable, but you can sometimes make an educated guess or try your best to change the expected outcome. Poker is a prime example of this; you can be good or bad at this game, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll land a good hand.
Fantasy sports (look, we’re coming full circle!) – fantasy sports is one of these sweet-spot game types, but the issue is that the fake player avatars are programmed to be as likely to succeed as their real-life counterparts. This means that you can make an educated guess about who is more likely to win based on the performance, abilities, and statistics of the athlete. However, it’s important to note that there’s still the possibility that you could be surprised. A poor player could have an exceptionally good day, or some random element could cause a good player to have a bad performance, or you could put two players against each other that have similar skill levels. Now there is some unpredictability due to extraneous factors, but there is still a large element of human interference here. That can leave room for accusations and, worse, lawsuits.
Virtual sports, on the other hand, is far more realistic and completely random. The results of these games is purely determined by the RNG and the operator cannot influence the outcome of the game in any way. Each bet is fresh, unique, and exciting. Now we’re talking! This makes virtual sports a much better and fairer alternative to traditional sports than other potential verticals. Unknown players are created, an RNG is thrown in, and they’re left to play their little digital hearts out. Alright it’s a little more complicated than that, but the gist is that they are electronic simulations of an actual sports match with an outcome that cannot be determined. “But but but… won’t operators be tempted to cheat a little and program a predetermined outcome anyway to make a quick buck?” I hear you ask, eyebrows furrowed in charmingly genuine concern. “No”, I reply, smiling. “Not with close and constant observation by regulatory bodies and licensers, software limitations, the looming threat of millions of euros in fines, instant removal of their licenses, life-destroying damage to their reputations and the reputation of the entire gambling industry and did I mention the millions of euros in fines?”. Big-name developers are now providing beautiful, user-friendly, fully-compliant virtual sports offerings.
Betby are one such software provider offering a unique and highly-rated virtual portfolio: Betby.Games. With many years of experience in the traditional sportsbook sector, you’d never know that these games are virtual. These game feeds can be seamlessly integrated into your existing sportsbook offerings, or as a stand-alone iGaming product. There is absolutely no controllable or predefined RNG in the game mechanics - these are pure, live sports events without human intervention. Check it out over at https://betby.com/
So there we have it: can we trust virtual sports? The answer, of course, is a resounding yes.
About SiGMA's revamped website:
SiGMA Group is excited to announce the launch of its newly revamped website. The website is currently available in 5 languages, English, Russian, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Spanish with plans to add another 5 languages over the coming months - namely French, Thai, Korean, Japanese, and Hindi.