Bringing the esports betting experience to life

Rohini Sardana, Head of Product Propositions at SIS, discusses why optimising the esports betting product for sportsbooks is the key to capitalising on the world’s fastest growing sports vertical

When esports first emerged onto the betting scene, a number of operators quickly identified that competitions between skilled individuals playing video games would complement their existing offering whilst also attracting new bettors. Markets soon became available but despite initial interest from esports enthusiasts, the vertical which promised huge potential has yet to reach the heights it warrants.

Esports is a global phenomenon, enjoyed by people across the globe. There’s certainly an appetite out there in the market from those looking to enhance the viewing experience further by placing bets on the outcomes of these competitions. Industry analysts back this theory, with the esports gambling sector set to be worth around $13 billion by 2020.

Yet when you assess the current esports betting landscape, there’s much improvement to be made in order to bring an entertaining experience for bettors, while also becoming a profitable product for operators.

The main issue is that existing tournaments and game formats aren’t optimised for betting and a large number of the markets are unfamiliar to current sports bettors.

That needs changing, if we are to unlock the potential of this fast-growing vertical.

Content is king

When scrolling through the markets that are currently available, bettors will be presented with odds on events such as “Next Map Winner” and “Pistol Round Winner”. For the esports enthusiast, these phrases will make perfect sense, but for existing sports bettors, it’s unlikely they will understand that market.

Esports presents an opportunity for operators to cross-sell their customers into an alternative product. It’s an approach that has led virtual sports to become an important part of the product mix of a sportsbook operator, and esports can easily follow suit.

For esports to take a similar path, however, the markets on offer must resonate with existing sports bettors. We know that this audience will be hesitant to wager on events they don’t understand, having undertaken extensive consumer research when developing our new esports betting product – SIS Competitive Gaming.

The live streaming service, which is the world’s first esports betting product optimised for sportsbooks, features easy-to-understand markets and events, and will engage existing sports bettors.

Streaming to the masses

Another current challenge with esports betting is that live pictures are generally not currently available to bettors. The sports betting experience is enhanced significantly when you can watch the action unfold live right before your eyes, so why should esports be any different?

‘Watch and Bet’ is a proven model within the industry, which ensures bettors are engaged for longer periods of time without the need to deposit prior funds, whilst it also leads to increased revenues for operators. This is particularly the case when complemented by on-screen calls to action which dramatically improve conversion-to-bet rates.

SIS Competitive Gaming aims to enhance the UX through this approach, with free-to-view streams of esports tournaments, within the sportsbook. The product provides a solution to the current situation where bettors have to switch tabs between the live streams and their betting account, with no direct access to live pictures via an operator’s online or retail offering.

Accurate pricing

For this exciting vertical to develop and reach its full potential, bettors need to feel comfortable placing bets on the events offered to them. From an operator perspective, the common issue that arises when offering markets on esports events is the reliability of the prices available.

Producing prices in-house is a challenge for most, given there is limited availability of traders with an in-depth knowledge of esports. Outsourcing the trading to third party suppliers who have specialist teams of esports traders is the most obvious and easiest route to solve this problem, allowing operators to focus on other areas such as marketing to the end user.

At SIS, we’ve worked closely with all our supply chain including the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) when developing our new SIS Competitive Gaming betting product. Approximately 15,000 events will be broadcast live in 2019, with each match monitored by a dedicated integrity referee trained by ESIC, with strict player due diligence procedures in place to ensure competitions are fair and transparent.

The potential of esports betting is huge, and we feel that if the current challenges in relation to the esports betting experience are resolved, then the esports vertical can realise its potential.