Esports betting: Most popular games and the state of the industry

18.5.2020.  
Esports betting: Most popular games and the state of the industry

It's impossible to imagine modern sports without betting. Not only is it the closest connected field, it's now fully ingrained in each discipline. Clubs are sponsored by betting companies, their stadiums now even bear names at times, and the odds are an irreplaceable part of game previews. Esports market was the next logical step for betting businesses.


With esports becoming a billion-dollar industry alone, separate of the far richer video game sphere its a part of, yet esports betting isn’t as well-known subject. But as the sphere of esports is getting more and more solidified. Especially as it is aided by the first global pandemic of modern times.


In recent years, esports has been enriched by the companies providing auxiliary operations for the actual competitions. Influencer agencies, field-specific marketing and merchandising, but the effect of esports betting is bound to be the biggest one. As in traditional sports, it's set to become a powerful partner to esports as it's developing into a global phenomenon it is destined to be.


Esports betting in 2019


Esports betting is one of the fastest rising categories in online gambling understandably, yet the amount of money placed on bets regarding video game tournaments surprised even early adopters. While esports betting isn't as clearly visible and dominating as it is in traditional sports like football, the numbers this part of the betting industry has achieved are staggering.


In 2019 the total amount of money wagered on esports is believed to be €8,000,000,000! Which greatly overshadows the value of the industry alone as it is currently just at one billion.


As far as revenue of the gambling industry is concerned, it's believed that esports betting brought in $560,000,000 in revenue. Not too far off from the traditional sports which brought in the gambling industry one billion in revenue.


Obviously, as it is not an established market, esports betting is seen as the gold rush of bet earnings.


A major role in the strength of esports betting plays the shortness of games compared to traditional sports. As well as their segmentation as a single match is consisted of different rounds or maps, depending on the game, of course. Shorter runtime allows for more bets to be placed over the course of a night than in football, as does the low-level of physical exertion suffered by the players. Enabling them to play more often. Especially considering that there are multiple organizations making tournaments and competitions.


Basics of esports betting


While sports betting seems like an easy-to-understand intuitive world, for those unexposed to it one look at all the codes and marks seems beyond daunting. Esports betting isn't that different from regular wagering as it functions on similar principles, yet there are unique particularities.


With the game being digital and stats followed regardlessly of if its a leisure game or a worldwide competition, gathering statistics is easy.


In esports, you can naturally bet on the winner of a single game and/or winner of a tournament. Specials for big tournaments are also a thing in the esports community and will only become bigger as the audience is familiarized with the greater number of players.


Prop betting is also present in esports and there are a multitude of options to choose on depending on the game. It could be the number of maps needed to settle the winner, similar to rounds in boxing or MMA. Placing bets on who gets the first kill is similar to the first goal/corner/foul and differs from games to games.


MOBAs will have different milestones or goals to be achieved than first-person shooters or battle-royale games.


Live betting is even more popular amongst the young audience of esports betting as they are used to its fast pace. Handicap betting also transitioned to esports betting as did skill-based bets and fantasy games.


To summarize esports betting it's very much like traditional sports betting only with more elves, ogres, and AK-47s.


Most popular video games for esports betting


In our piece on the most popular esports games, we discussed their differences and what makes them special to so many people. When looking them from the betting perspective different aspects come out.


MOBAs, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, have the advantage of always being placed on the same map. Same layout. Crossing out one considerable variable betting enthusiasts might use. Although there are other types of variables like the limitation of the number of heroes players can choose from for a particular match.


Live betting is made even more interesting and reactive with esports as there are more variables that can greatly influence the course of a game. For instance, in Blizzard Entertainment’s card game Hearthstone the viewer can react to the new deck unveiled by a player. Overall increasing engagement and enjoyment of watching esports and betting at the same time as there are more ways to showcase and capitalize on the knowledge.


Another game from the same company, Overwatch, changed the way esports and esports betting is conducted with the introduction of leagues. Offering a familiar turf to bettors in terms of structure and enabling them to use some of the tricks they've picked up while watching league-based traditional sports over the years.


Yet three video games carry the biggest weight of esports betting as DOTA 2, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive account for 85% of esports betting.


As for particular events, Counter-Strike's StarLadder Berlin Major 2019 and ESL Pro League Season 10, combined with DOTA 2's The International 2019, were the most popular amongst bettors.


As for the most profitable market for bettors? It was ‘Total over/under 26.5 rounds’ in a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive map. The best bettor of the year was a German who landed over €7,110 with a modest €10 combo bet on The International 2019 and StarLadder Berlin Major 2019 matches.


While the big trio is obviously dominating the market there can be major shifts in how the pie is shared and the culprit is the COVID-19 pandemic.


With the major global precedent and cancellation of live sports betting companies took a hit like never before. The Belarussian football league wasn't the lifeline bettors needed.


Esports and esports betting took a hit too, sure, as tournaments in major arenas were cancelled or postponed. But the digital nature of the phenomenon allowed for a quick transition to all-online tournaments with the viewership and bets soaring. What else were people going to do in quarantine?


Many bettors from traditional sports ventured into the new lands and the thanks can go to traditional sports and mainstream media. Usually seen as the competition and the denier of esports.


The media reported on the new situation by stating how now all we have left are esports, while traditional sports organizations turned towards their younger brother. While the athletes are often gamers themselves, rarely did the organizations dealt with esports. Until now.


NBA even organized a tournament of NBA 2K video game played by their superstar athletes, broadcasted by ESPN. Football teams daily had streams of FIFA or PES football video games, simulating matches.


Naturally, the bettors new to the esports landscape adopted to NBA and FIFA games quickest as that is what they are most familiar with. Also, this is where the tempo of esports came to shine as while one football match lasts 90+ minutes, a FIFA match can be done in 15 minutes. In the weeks of the pandemic, it was NBA and FIFA games that accounted for 80% of all esports bets.


CEO and founder of a company dealing with esports betting SickODDs, Tom Wade, disclosed the change seen in the weeks of COVID-19 pandemic.


"Second-tier esports titles such as Rocket League, FIFA, F1 Esports, and Call of Duty have all seen traffic increases of over 200% throughout the platform over the past two weeks. This acts as a great catalyst and ‘gateway drug’ into esports and the betting that comes with it," said Wade.


With the pandemic, an alarm turned on even at the headquarters of the biggest esports ignorers. A possibility of another pandemic in which movement and contact can be limited will stay in everyone’s minds for a long time. And it could happen again. So we are bound to see turns towards the esports betting market even by the most traditional, local betting companies.


There’s no doubt that while the pandemic hindered the esports industry and the esports betting side, it also brought exposure to it which no marketing gurus could’ve delivered on organically. But, once again, while video games have the power to draw, captivate, and engage, it seems that they have yet to develop the staying power. Especially compared to 100-year-olds like football, tennis or rugby.


Rules of football and its tactics don’t change as much as the rules of a single video game. Video game companies often operate behind a veil of secret, not disclosing the upcoming changes to the gameplay or charters, entirely or partially. All making for a variable-filled environment in which the bettor needs to keep constant track of the news surrounding the game. On the other hand, there are no injuries to the players.


Mostly, it’s a matter of passion. Becoming the best at FIFA on one’s block isn’t possible without really loving and enjoying the game. Same goes for betting on FIFA. Or DOTA 2. Or Counter-Strike. Esports betting can be profitable but it requires a lot of time investment and knowledge. Also, might as well have fun while doing it.



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