There has been a surge in the popularity of esports and competitive gaming worldwide in recent years, with Eastern Europe being a particular hotbed. We speak to Bartlomiej Michalek, Commercial Manager, UK & Europe at SIS, as he looks at how betting suppliers and operators can tap into this growing market.
In this ultra-competitive market for betting and gaming operators, there has never been a greater emphasis on providing a well-rounded and comprehensive, cross-vertical offering. The increased interest in gaming content and the engaged audience that it brings has presented an invaluable opportunity for suppliers to offer a new stream of compelling content.
In Eastern Europe, in particular, the potential around esports and competitive gaming betting is substantial. The statistics in the region are very impressive, with audience figures and revenues highlighting the popularity of gaming content. Estimations on the number of online gamers in Eastern Europe are roughly 3.5 million, with digital games revenue in the region growing by 7% year-on-year, generating over $2 billion each year. In addition, esports tournaments draw in impressive figures. Earlier this year, the Polish city of Katowice hosted the Intel Extreme Masters for the third time, recording just under 24million hours of watch time from start to finish.
With esports and competitive gaming disciplines having penetrated the mainstream in the region, we believe that sportsbooks should look to take advantage by drawing in casual bettors to events-based solutions. Our Competitive Gaming portfolio features two well-recognised sports simulations – esoccer and ebasketball – that are generating significant results for operators, with sportsbooks reporting that these products are contributing as much as 10% to total revenues.
While the primary focus of esports tournaments is to entertain viewers, with betting opportunities taking a back seat, our product is built from scratch purposely for betting. Tournaments can be lengthy affairs, thus not being an attractive betting proposition for an audience that wants short and sharp betting activity. Tournament streams can also be delayed for as long as five minutes, and for a proposition where in-play betting opportunities are a key aspect in its appeal, this lag in content doesn’t dovetail well. From a trading perspective, it becomes very difficult to offer a similar level of in-play betting opportunities within esports that you find in other sports.
Events-based content can deliver an unparalleled range of content and wagering opportunities. Since launching, we have progressed from delivering seven hours per day of live streamed content to eight daily 24-hour streams and 150,000 annual events, all because of strong customer demand.
The edge SIS Competitive Gaming has gone beyond the sheer volume of events. Our contests are stringently refereed and is the only esports product available on the market to have been awarded the Esports Integrity Commission’s (ESIC) Gold Standards, the highest possible accreditation created to set unmatched levels of integrity and safety in the esports betting industry. Every contest features live commentary from a highly knowledgeable caster and on-screen graphics, including unique betting prompts to provide a comprehensive experience.
The vast amount of in-play betting opportunities can be offered thanks to ultra-low latency live streaming, which is of high importance for in-play betting, given the demand from bettors to place bets within a matter of seconds as a match unfolds. As we all know, low latency is imperative because customers expect to interact with technology in real-time with no delays. Issues with high latency and time delays can cause users to quit engaging on a platform and move to another application permanently.
It has proven very popular with bettors and has been rolled out to a wide range of operators internationally, including Polish operator Betfan and Maxbet in the Balkans. Putting SIS Competitive Gaming in context, it is an increasingly important part of our overall product mix. Given its explosion in popularity worldwide, competitive gaming betting is not something any operator can afford to ignore.
Comparisons can be made between our Competitive Gaming product and the offering we provide through our Live Racing content. The principles and elements that engage the different audiences are very much the same, with the key being the provision of constant, round-the-clock short-form betting opportunities.
Competitive Gaming and horse racing also have similarities where it can be daunting for beginners to get involved, thanks to the terminology that can seem like a different language to many. Our job as a supplier is to make content as easy to understand as possible. There is no benefit for us in providing what is deemed to be overly complex content because bettors won’t engage, and understandably so.
That’s why it is vital for operators to go to great lengths to simplify their offerings as much as possible, with no unnecessary jargon that will scare a potentially new and engaged audience.
Competitive Gaming betting doesn’t have to be complex or difficult to understand. To be successful, products need to appeal to the masses as well as dedicated devotees. There is an onus on providers to ensure they can deliver highly engaging experiences with the best possible standards of integrity and true in-play markets in order to maximise that widespread appeal.