By Kenneth Williams
The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has completely shifted the pattern of growth in the esports industry. Sports simulation titles have exploded thanks to the cancellation of major sports leagues, but online-only circuits have slowed esports’ trinity of Counter-Strike, League of Legends and Dota. The esports gambling industry has the most incentive to predict 2021’s trends.
In addition to the audience shift, esports betting has also become more prevalent through the sponsorship of teams and tournaments. Betway has signed partnerships with event organisers, competitive squads and even individual Twitch streamers. Meanwhile, Nasdaq-listed esports data company Esports Entertainment Group (EEG) has connected the threads between the stock market, youth esports leagues and professional football. The betting industry has been hectic during the pandemic.
Partnerships and marketing
Betway and EEG represent two distinct approaches to the video game gambling industry. Betway has been firmly entrenched in traditional sports betting since 2006 but was also one of the first major betting sites to welcome esports. EEG has been a dedicated esports betting market provider since 2008, though they also have experience in the igaming industry.
Betway’s sponsorship of OGA Dota Pit Season 3 last October was likely a test run for a larger-scale partnership in the future. The gambling company also agreed a one-year deal with North American esports team Beastcoast, which fields players in Dota 2, VALORANT, Rainbow Six Siege and multiple fighting games, in 2020. These sponsorships put Betway’s name and logo in the direct vision of esports fans, many of whom consume Twitch or YouTube content produced by Beastcoast’s roster.
Betway has also been pushing the marketing envelope in the online era, with Esports Insider naming its BLAST Betway Breakout ad as one of the best campaigns of last year.
While Betway draws itself closer to the community, EEG is focused on the business side of gaming. It partnered with Oxygen Esports to create a digital AI-driven first-person shooter coach for youths looking to go pro and also made history by becoming the first official esports tournament host for the NFL. EEG noticed the boom in both academic and sports simulation titles. This move capitalises on the momentum of both.
Elsewhere, the company has leveraged its status as the stock market’s esports darling to introduce options trading on its capital. EEG is looking to make the financial side of esports more popular with speculative investors.
Looking longer term
What this all indicates, of course, is that esports betting is now a normal part of the industry. Not long ago, esports betting sites marketed themselves through sheer coverage of titles. Now, they’re directly courting esports culture and looking to employ their data in tangential fields. Esports betting companies are currently looking for other areas where their data might be useful. That usually wraps back around to training, tournament hosting and strategic partnerships.
Betway and EEG are looking to the post-Covid era with renewed enthusiasm. Expect similar fan-centric engagement and closer integration with traditional sports in 2021.
The critical areas of esports betting in 2021 will be partnerships, finance and closer integration with traditional sports. Esports betting is no longer a novelty and the early adopters of video game sportsbooks are now reaping the rewards of an organic esports base. As LAN tournaments begin to reappear, partnerships with tournament hosts and competitive teams will be a top priority.
Esports is still in its honeymoon phase on the stock market, so expect betting sites to market themselves towards investors and potential gamblers. The explosion of sports simulation titles is a precursor to more partnerships between traditional and digital sports, while NFL or NBA partnerships are good news for casual fans, esports bookies and day traders alike.