Malte Hegeler, Head of Product Development at OddsMatrix, writes for SBC News on how bridging the knowledge gap between esports and sports betting can help towards a more lucrative future.

The world of esports can often appear impenetrable for those who did not grow up immersed in its most iconic titles.

For the uninitiated, watching a Dota 2 event can be a deeply confusing experience. The action is relentless and with so much happening simultaneously on-screen, it is often difficult to keep track. 

For devotees, however, such tournaments are every bit as compelling as the World Cup is for football fans. It is also lucrative: Dota 2’s international world championship broke esports prize pool records nine years in a row, reaching US$34 million in 2019.

A generational and cultural divide exists around esports. In terms of simulation games, for many youngsters, a FIFA or NBA2K contest could become as compelling as its real-life football counterpart, while this audience expanded significantly during the pandemic-enforced pause in real-life sport.

Yet while simulation-style esports titles are now more easily comprehensible for the typical middle-aged sportsbook executive, there is still a disconnect when it comes to understanding the latent potential of betting on such products – even more so when it comes to real esports titles. 

Crucially for our industry, this knowledge gap – and a lack of comprehension over the scale of appeal across the full breadth of the esports offering – is leading to missed opportunities. There are estimated to be half a billion esports fans and rising around the world, while in the US alone the projection is that esports will have 84 million viewers by the end of this year. 

To put that figure into context, that is five million more viewers than Major League Baseball achieves. Within the OddsMatrix sportsbook, FIFA events are competing for third position in betting turnover with tennis, edging in front across 2021 so far.

The audience for pure esports is young, engaged and willing to spend digitally and on an enormous scale. According to data from McKinsey, Generation Z and Millennials represent around $350 billion of spending power in the United States alone, while the evolution of demographic trends means the audience for esports is larger than that for the NBA or MLB. 

The journey towards engaging that crowd – which represents a previously untapped revenue stream – with compelling esports betting propositions is only in its infancy, but even now there is no bigger growth sector in the whole of sports betting. 

No turning back

Research undertaken by EveryMatrix revealed that the pandemic coincided with esports betting growing 40 times over, with most bets placed on sporting simulations. 

Even now, a year on, esports betting revenues are seven times higher than they were pre-pandemic, indicating that many of those who wagered for the first time in 2020 have not stopped. 

Industry-wide, esports betting was worth more than US$12 billion by the end of last year, a four-fold increase on the figure recorded four years earlier.

While sports-themed games continue to provide huge appeal, as shown by FIFA’s success, classic esports titles such as CS:GO and Dota 2 also contain significant potential for attracting a huge audience for the betting industry. At EveryMatrix, we are continually adding new esports titles including rising star Valorant, which successfully combines the FPS and MOBA genres.

Many esports-oriented bookmakers have tried to take their slice of this action, but the truth is that precious few are performing to anywhere near the level they could be. Again, this speaks to a disconnect between those with knowledge of the esports world and those who know sports betting. 

The key to unlocking the potential of esports betting lies in the integration of market knowledge within a fast, reliable sportsbook platform.

This is where our OddsMatrix esports solution comes into its own. With a deep understanding of the sports betting and esports industries, we know how to offer our operator partners compelling esports betting products. 

Our newly enhanced platform features an unparalleled breadth of esports events coverage comprising more than 40,000 pre-live and 50,000 live events every month across more than 270 tournaments, with 95 different bet types and thousands of team logos. 

Over 40,000 matches are streamed every month and our service can be delivered as a feed or a hosted solution, offering real-time odds, stats, scores and settlements, automated trading, while there are also multiple options for operators to configure their own odds, customising profit margin.

Understanding the intricacies of in-play and skins betting options within esports can be a difficult barrier to overcome. What is far simpler to understand is that this is an embryonic market with vast growth potential for any savvy operators that select the right platform partner. 

Sometimes, it is better to hand over the controls to the experts.

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