SiGMA News sits down with Morten Hauge, Aspire Global’s Head of Sports & Marek Suchar, Oddin’s Head of Partnerships to discuss the trends driving esports through successive generations
SiGMA: Is esports betting a passing phase that has been popular in lockdown or is it here to stay?
Morten: The events of the past year drew sport worldwide to a standstill. Sportsbook operators had two choices- to pivot or risk losing everything. For the most part, they pivoted. This was where esports’ popularity began to emerge. Esports had been building momentum for several years. This past year was its time to shine. Despite growing popularity, predictions were made that when sports returned, we’d see a major drop in esports betting. These predictions were proven wrong. Interestingly, esports players have not vanished despite sports returning in full swing. This indicates a turning point in sports players’ interests, with esports being the so-called ‘one to watch’.
Marek: With esports simulators like FIFA, we witness ups and downs depending on whether big sports tournaments are being played at the time. This is to be expected. When it comes to core esports, it has been a trend during the last number of years, and it just received perhaps the most significant boost of all thanks to lockdown.
SiGMA: What types of esports games are particularly important to offer operators in your portfolio, are they sports-based like FIFA or more traditional ‘shoot ‘em up’ style titles?
Morten: Providing players with the broadest content portfolio on the market is naturally the goal. When it comes to sports-based vs traditional ‘shoot ‘em up’ games, it’s not a matter of choosing one over the other. We simply have to offer both. The question at hand, therefore, comes down to quality. Choosing quality above all is what is most important to us and we believe the player ultimately responds to such a pursuit.
Marek: Esports is geographically dependent. This means, with Brazil in mind, it’s Counter-Strike at the forefront, in Mexico it’s League of Legends, and in Colombia, it’s Dota 2. It all depends on the operator and the geographical location they choose to target.
Is esports integrity an issue and how do you convince consumers that it is a safe product to bet on?
Morten: When it comes to the issue of integrity, the approach to esports differs not from that of traditional sports. We profile every single bet to ensure everything is compliant. Should an issue arise, the necessary authorities are contacted.
Marek: Oddin is a member of ESIC (Esports Integrity Commission), whereby we send and receive information to all other members if any suspicious activity is spotted in the market. We also have our own tools where we can identify suspicious behaviour. Players can rest assured that our esports product is safe, reliable, and secure.
SiGMA: Will esports ever replace live sports in popularity?
Morten: I believe that both esports and live sports can coexist in harmony. The emergence of esports as a popular vertical is a true sign of the times, with a large portion of the younger generation enjoying esports more than traditional sports. However, as it stands, there is a space for both to thrive. Esports is a form of live sports in itself, in this sense.
Marek: It’s fair to say the likelihood of the older generation starting to consume League of Legends is low to minimal, so it's not a matter of competition. It's more about appealing to a different generation. The question for operators to consider is, whether to engage younger generations through soccer and basketball, or through esports.
What kind of expertise should be in place to properly calculate esports odds?
Marek: Counter-Strike is fast, Dota 2 is complex. You need to have robust models in place that are ideally powered by official data. You are always looking for the fastest data available and as granular as possible. Yet, you need to know what to do with the data, therefore an esports-centric infrastructure and an experienced trading team is crucial. If any of this is missing, you will not be able to provide profitable and engaging content.
Morten: As I mentioned before, we profile the players. This ensures that the feed provider will have a clear understanding of the scale score of this player across other sports. For example, the ability to adjust algorithms or models based on the customer's behaviour.
Marek: In esports, due to patches, the games are constantly changing. You have to adjust and recalibrate your models, otherwise, they will become obsolete. Part of that is constant learning and contact adoption to the new patches.
What are the key characteristics of a well-rounded esports betting solution?
Morten: For me, the core is always trading. How often the market is available for in-play betting is very important. If the market is suspended too much, you cannot monetize your offering. Also, to have the right data. For Aspire Global, we also need to build our own frontend to mirror our journey.
Marek: With millennials, they’re used to getting content on demand. When it comes to esports betting, they can’t bet when they want, because the uptime is very low and there aren’t that many markets in which to actually bet. We’re changing that by improving uptime to more than 80% on average and having more than 15 live markets available on which to bet. This way, younger generations can be engaged the same way they are by Netflix or Twitch.
Walk us through how to build an esports front-end - how much does it help in maximizing revenues?
Morten: At Aspire Global, there are extremely passionate employees who know esports inside out. This kind of expertise and interest will help to build the frontend. We will, however, also look at player data to analyse how the player consumes the content and live streaming, as well as other exciting features like personalized bet recommendations.
Marek: I am excited to see how the solution, on both our sides, will eventually develop. What we are already working on and what we want to achieve is a well-rounded solution that covers all aspects. This is in order for the bettor to stay engaged and to make a judgement call in placing a bet without needing to go elsewhere. Within this ecosystem, the user will remain engaged while having fun and therefore, eventually brings volume and revenues to our partners.
Thank you for your time Morten, Marek. Any final thoughts you would like to share regarding this partnership?
Morten: For us, future prospects are looking very exciting. We are in the process of completing our front-end which means the go-live date with Oddin is fast approaching. We’re particularly looking forward to the player data we will get from the Oddin product. All in all, through a robust trading solution and a strong frontend pairing, we’ll be able to show just how endless the esports capabilities can be.
Marek: From our side, we’re extremely grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with Morten and his team. From the very beginning, they truly understood the value of esports and how to make the product engaging. They knew exactly what they were looking for and I am glad they chose us to be the right partners for them on this journey.
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