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eSports: winning in lockdown – and scoring beyond

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One of the early winners in the sudden shift in consumer behaviour worldwide has been the rise of eSports. From simple entertainment through to driving gaming and gambling, esports has become a key form of entertainment content for millions of people.

The lack of live sports is being keenly felt by many people worldwide. They rely on it for entertainment, engagement and more. And this is not going to change any time soon – in fact, as with many things in the Corona era, a suddenly and immutable shift in consumer behaviour has been ushered in.

And what an opportunity it is. For starters, using sports clips to entertain is going to be a market that carrier billing is all but designed for – as we have said before – and with the lack of live content right now, turning to ‘classics’ like best goals and more is going to fill the gap before live sports return.

Even when sports are back on, there will still be a huge market for using sliced and diced content to drive engagement and extra revenues around existing subs services.

Virtual horse and dog racing was already becoming a key area for igaming over the past few years – up from 63% of punters in the UK in 2016 to 66% in 2018.

However, lockdown has ushered in a huge new interest in watching virtual events and betting on them – not only among the core of the igaming public, but also amongst a whole new cohort of players.

For example, in the US NASCAR drew an audience of 1.3 million to its virtual eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, a SIM race/esports event modelled after the motorsport.

Before the Covid-19 outbreak struck, analysts expected the esports betting market to generate anything between $12 billion between $15 billion in terms of total wagers.

There would also have been half a billion esports enthusiasts, a term used by Newzoo to describe individuals who are actively participating in esports – whether as competitors, audiences, consumers or other. These numbers have now changed.

In analysing the market, EveryMatrix considers two main types of esports competitions, taking into account the growing interest in eNASCAR, NBA2K and FIFA 20. The report differentiates between simulation of rea-life sports games and classic games.

EveryMatrix has collated data from 10 bookmakers, showing that esports betting activities have grown 40-fold between 9 March and 19 April 2020. Generating an estimated 80% of the total betting volume can be attributed to FIFA and NBA2K.

As to traditional or classic games, the report notes that League of Legends (38%), CS: GO (29%) and Dota 2 (18%) accounted for 85% of the total esports betting volume in that segment.

Let us play

The other side of esports that is going to be just as important to the telemedia sector is that of live gaming and ‘Let’s play’ content. Live games – where players play video games against each other – has been a growing sector for some time, with tournaments attracting thousands of live visitors and many millions more online.

And getting people paying to play, to watch and rewarding them for doing so is going beyond ad funding and starting to become an interesting merging of carrier billing and cryptocurrency tokenisation.

For example, attention-focused tech company Verasity has launched a new game store that rewards its users for playing games. For every minute of gaming, players will receive digital tokens that are exchangeable to Amazon vouchers and many other rewards. There are already thousands of games available from more than 550 game publishers, ensuring a wide variety of genres.

The platform is part of the Verasity.tv online portal, which also hosts a Watch&Earn program and several B2B tools. Publishers use Verasity’s rewarding-technology to improve aspects such as engagement and monetization.

This sort of idea is going to rapidly gain ground and is an ideal play for telemedia companies to tap into.

Let’s play – tutorials and talk-throughs of game content – meanwhile is also becoming hugely popular even without the Corona bounce. According to Juniper Research, it is set to help drive the whole eSports segment to reach 858 million unique views by 2022, up from 630 million this year.

These are big numbers and we are going to see a whole raft of innovations around esports in the coming months as those of us stuck at home for an unprecedented length of time look for new ways to be entertained.

This is a business about to really take off and we certainly think the opportunities are huge and will shortly be preparing a white paper designed to make the case for deploying far more carrier billing and mobile engagement technology across a range of key verticals – including games, gambling and sports.

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