One sector that has been growing significantly in the last few years is professional video gaming, known as esports. Many believe that it will even bypass traditional sports in the near future. Many gambling companies have already jumped on the bandwagon and are offering betting services for esports, but certain parties have been rallying against this.
History of esports
Esports has been around for the past couple of decades, ever since online gaming became popular. Titles like Halo, StarCraft, and Call of Duty all developed diverse online playing bases. The scene has really exploded in the last couple of years, with massive prize money and endorsements at stake.
Esports has always been popular in South Korea, where massive stadiums have been filled to the brim with spectators for events. Now the Western world is embracing this craze, and countless world-renowned brands are getting involved.
The recent inaugural finals for the Overwatch League had a sold-out crowd at the Barclays Center in New York, a 20,000-seat arena.
Players can earn millions of dollars from a variety of revenue streams through event prize money, team salary, streaming revenue, and endorsements.
These personalities are now replacing traditional sports stars as being kid’s idols. Gaming developers have embraced esports and have made their games friendlier for competitive events. Some of them have even created collegiate scholarship programs whereby esports players are treated as regular athletes.
To give you an idea of the money that is now going into esports, a franchise in the recently-created Overwatch League costs at least $20m (£15.7m). New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft invested in a franchise, along with other owners of major sports organizations.
They clearly see the trend of where esports is going and are looking to get in on the action in the developing stages.
Gambling in esports
Because esports events are streamed for free on channels such as Twitch, they are ideal for gambling. Everybody can watch the events and, in the process, they will want to get in on the action and place bets on the outcome of the event, whether pre-game or in-play.
Over the past couple of years, many gambling companies have added esports to their offerings, but they have been primarily direct outcome betting markets and not very diverse. This is now starting to change as the appetite for betting on these events is growing.
With sports betting being so lucrative and esports aiming to take down traditional sports in reach, it is only natural that esports betting will become more and more popular.
However, some in the esports scene are rallying against gambling. Valve is a leading gaming publisher, being the creator of leading esports games such as Counter-Strike and Dota 2, as well as the Steam platform.
They have given instructions to all Dota 2 teams that are taking part in the International 8 event in September that they can no longer have gambling-related endorsements.
This event is one of the most lucrative esports events on the calendar, with the prize pool nearly reaching $25m (£19.7m).
Valve’s move has led to a lot of backlash from industry experts who believe that now is the time that gambling should be embraced rather than admonished in the sector.
Speaking at a conference in Sydney last week, an esports technology strategist who is known around the world, Hai Ng, said: “What we’re seeing with Valve and what we’ve seen in the past with Riot (creator of League of Legends) is that they don’t want to be seen as having anything to do with gambling or betting companies for fear that they will be seen as promoting gambling to minors.”
It appears that perception is the main concern that these companies have, rather than the inherent action of gambling. Instead of trying to ignore the massive potential exists within esports gambling, they should embrace it, making matters more on their terms.