eSports in the CIS region , Q&A w/ Viktor Block, Senior Sales Manager/PandaScore

Home » eSports in the CIS region , Q&A w/ Viktor Block, Senior Sales Manager/PandaScore
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Esports has long been popular in the CIS region, with various top-tier teams and players all calling it home. How has the landscape evolved over the last few years? Have any particular trends emerged that have surprised you at all?

Esports boomed in the CIS region in 2008 when Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games became really popular. While esports had been a thing as far back as 2003, the rise of games such as Counter-Strike and DOTA2 was a major catalyst for the upward trajectory the sector has been riding ever since. In recent years, the infrastructure needed to support esports has improved drastically across the CIS region, including the construction of the Pixel Esports Arena in Minks, Belarus, and the Cyberspace Arena in Almaty, Kazakhstan, both of which hold top-flight contests. Internet connectivity has also improved, while support from local and international sponsors such as Monster Energy, Red Bull and War Gaming have provided funds for further investment while also driving awareness. Ultimately, this has seen the landscape evolve into a thriving industry with lots of opportunities for further growth.

In terms of trends, and especially relating to esports betting, I’ve been surprised by the high demand for betting on console games – we call them eBattles and they include disciplines such as eSoccer and eBasketball. I think this is just a natural development that has occurred off the back of strong demand for video game content, which is often the bridge between traditional sports and esports.

 

What factors have contributed to esports’ growth in the CIS over the past few years?

One of the biggest factors for me is that teams have become more professional and are now training and playing in well-run clubs. This takes place in dedicated buildings and rooms, set up with high-speed internet and the absolute best gaming equipment. Player salaries have also gone up, which has increased the calibre of players taking part in contests across the region, taking competitiveness to the next level. Today, many CIS players now play for high-ranked teams such as Virtus.pro, Team Spirit, Betboom or Na`Vi which compete on the international stage. This in turn is helping esports grow across the CIS region.

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Given how many countries are in the CIS region, can you walk us through some of the biggest regulatory differences when it comes to betting on esports? And how does PandaScore navigate these changes?

The legality of betting and esports betting differs from country to country within the CIS region. Some are super strict or even prohibit gambling, while others take a more liberal approach, regulating the activity and licensing operators. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest markets and their approach.

In Ukraine, esports has been recognised as a sport since 2018 and in 2020 the country regulated and licensed gambling for the first time. The law focuses mostly on standard betting – sports and casino – but is likely to also include esports betting given that esports is a recognised sport in the country with tier-one Ukraine sportsbooks like Favbet and Parimatch offering it to their players.

Kazakhstan has a growing gambling industry with betting shops and casinos operating in major cities such as Almaty and Nur-Sultan. Gambling is regulated by the Ministry of Culture and Sports and while the regulatory framework is somewhat restrictive, sports betting – which is likely to include esports betting – is permitted.

Navigating the constant changes in betting regulation across the CIS region can be challenging, so we make sure to keep up to speed with the latest developments by monitoring legislative updates and amendments to regulatory guidelines. We also track industry trends and best practices to anticipate regulatory changes ahead of time, allowing us to adapt quickly if needed. This can involve benchmarking against competitors, attending conferences and networking with key stakeholders.

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In your view, are there any unique opportunities for the expansion of esports and esports betting within the CIS region? And how does this differ to other regions?

It’s important to understand that CIS, especially Ukraine and Kazakhstan, play by their own rules. By that I mean they are very different to other esports markets, so don’t think what works in Italy will work in Ukraine. For example, while League of Legends is very popular in Europe, in CIS, it’s Dota 2 that takes the top spot. But for those who can understand the region and each market, there are plenty of opportunities to explore.

Let me elaborate. Dota 2 is thriving in the broader CIS, with regular tournaments and events attracting large audiences both offline and online. teams like Natus Vincere (Na’Vi), Virtus.pro and Team Spirit have achieved significant success in Dota 2 competitions, contributing to the game’s popularity in the region. While Dota 2 is big, other video games also enjoy significant popularity, including CS2, World of Tanks and Fortnite among others.

Operators need to consider this when deciding their markets and odds, marketing strategies and plans for player engagement.

 

What would you say is the key to creating a successful esports product for a CIS audience?

Understanding layer preferences in each market and delivering an experience that exceeds their expectations. For the CIS region, this means focusing on Dota 2 – this is a game that offers deep and strategic gameplay requiring teamwork, communication and skilful execution of plans and strategies. Its competitive nature appeals to gamers as they enjoy the challenge of multiplayer experiences – this goes back to the original MOBAs back in 2008. These factors must be present in the esports betting experience offered to players – at PandaScore, this means a comprehensive Dota 2 offering that covers markets such as Kills, Towers, Roshans and Barracks, with players able to challenge themselves in a betting competition against others.

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Support is also key to delivering a quality player experience. We offer round-the-clock assistance and are regularly rolling out updates to improve the experience players receive when betting on esports at sportsbooks using our data, odds and betting tools such as our Bet Builder. We are always working hard to expand our offering to cover the most in-demand games including CS2, Valorant, Call of Duty and many more.

 

What trends or developments do you anticipate shaping the future growth of esports in the CIS region over the next few years?

The industry will continue to grow and become more professional. Esports is different to traditional sports and it still lacks recognition in some markets, even though it is considered an official sport in a growing number of countries across the CIS region. I think as it evolves, more governments will provide more support for esports as it brings tremendous economic, cultural and social benefits. This could include funding for esports initiatives, rolling out regulatory frameworks, helping to foster partnerships with esports organisations or simply recognising it as a sport.

The continued proliferation of smartphones across the region will be a further catalyst for esports growth. Titles such as PUGB Mobile, Free Fire and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang will attract large audiences and provide new opportunities for teams, players, sponsors and other stakeholders to explore. This is a really exciting time for esports and esports betting in the CIS region, and PandaScore is thrilled to be part of it.

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