Blog: eSports – the antithesis of mainstream online sports betting?

Blog: eSports – the antithesis of mainstream online sports betting?

Thursday, October 29, 2015 Totally Gaming

With operators looking to expand their offering, what role will eSports play in the future of online betting? Industry eSports and digital betting consultant Mark McGuinness takes a closer look.


Video gaming, before it was called eSports and competitive tournaments, isn’t a new industry. It’s been around one way or another for more than 30 years – starting with Space Invaders – but it was the advances in technology that allowed online multiplayer gaming that metamorphosed the solitary computer nerd in his bedroom to the bombastic title of digital eSports athlete, Mark McGuinness writes.

Sidestepping the hyperbole, the key point is the multiplayer capability of the actual video game. It provides the platform to compete, to socialise, to get Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame.

It is this fundamental ability to share the same interests, beliefs, and to improve skills which has given rise to prodigious eSports communities of tens or hundreds of millions around one particular video game franchise or platform.

ESports, like many of today’s successful digital businesses such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Tinder, are built around inordinate community-based platforms.

It is where fans, friends and players totalling tens of millions can congregate around a single game to compete, socialise, engage in live chat and broadcast that experience through real-time video streams.

It is actually the antithesis of current gambling models, which have pretty much zero socialization and are in the main a solitary activity. If you have ever placed an online sports bet you will know what I mean.

It’s just you versus the operator, perhaps interspersed with the odd live chat to customer service complaining about your bonus credit.

It is a very sanitised and unengaging experience - no live chat, no personal video stream, no sharing of your personal betting progress.

Of course it is potentially an even bigger problem for Vegas and the land-based casinos. After all, playing slots or table games are further examples devoid of community entertainment for the elusive millennial audience that these behemoths seek.

For new-era digital gambling entertainment companies that have embraced community as central to the betting experience, success awaits. Unikrn, a pure-play eSports betting site which hasn’t even being trading for a year, has seven million players. That is the power of a community based gambling entertainment offering.

Digital gambling services are already well developed in the eSports ecosystem. A common method is skin gambling or skin trading, which are similar to eBay style marketplaces.

These platform marketplaces, such as CS: GO Lounge, provide the method to buy and sell digital items such as knives and guns related to the hugely popular eSports game Counter Strike. They generate millions of dollars in betting trades per day. Don’t underestimate these new models, as Riot, the publisher of the world’s biggest eSports game and community League of Legends, is believed to be generating $1bn in revenue per year from these so-called micro-transactions on digital goods related to the in-game play.

Some factions of the online gambling industry, either due to outdated regulatory frameworks or internal policy, have been slower to embrace other alternative value exchange models such as Bitcoin and other forms of digital currency.

It is clear that if they don’t consider what the eSports demographic is already engaging with, then their business may miss out on the opportunity to acquire millions of potential new customers.

The on-demand, mobile-centric, connected generation expect instant gratification, social giving and a community at the heart of their digital entertainment experience.

For mainstream sports betting brands that offer passive experiences, they just may have to rethink their business models to win over this ever-demanding socially adept and connected digital consumer. 

Author biography:

Mark McGuinness has more than 15 years’ experience in digital marketing director roles with both private and public iGaming operators. He is the resident iGaming Futurologist for Isle of Man-based Mainstream Marketing & Communications, a digital marketing agency offering business and marketing advice on social gaming, i-gaming, bitcoin and land-based gambling.


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