As the hottest new gaming product that is engaging a massive audience with significant growth potential, eSports has earned a standalone session at this year’s Malta iGaming Seminar (MiGS). Employing the dynamic “fishbowl” format, The eSports Evolution session will deftly combine expert opinions with audience-driven direction in order to promote better understanding of how and why the eSports product fits into the iGaming universe.
Within a short window of time, eSports has carved itself a niche in the iGaming industry by exhibiting a promising platform by which operators can bring in the next generation of players. The gaudy number of spectators the various tournaments attract coupled with the desirable demographics of the audience has led to an explosion of betting offerings. According to digital games market intelligence firm Newzoo, awareness of eSports is growing at a blistering pace, up 36% from 20151. This figure includes enthusiasts and occasional viewers of the larger tournaments, of whom 69% are the most sought after gambling demographic: males between the ages of 21-352.
Armed with this immense potential market opportunity, iGaming operators are eager to integrate the eSports product. But as with every new product in a technologically advanced industry, the typical concerns around game integrity and regulations have already become front and center topics. MiGS organisers has assembled a speaker panel with diverse backgrounds that has the experience and knowledge of both betting and eSports to field the audience’s pointed questions about how the industry can confront and proactively address these concerns.
As a former CEO of the Malta Gaming Authority and current founder of Avviza Gaming Advisory, panelist Reuben Portanier’s perspective bridges the betting and eSports worlds. Relating the betting side to the eSports side, Mr. Portanier notes “The promoters of eSports are often game developers, who manage to attract gamers to their platform, but who however have little experience and knowledge on the betting side of it, and how to market it as a betting product. Given its novelty, and being a niche, it is viewed by most ‘investors’ as a high risk activity, and thus most game developers often struggle to find ‘traditional’ investors to take their product to the next level and often try to target betting operators as their investing partners”.
Panelist Victor Martyn, was a 1998 World Champion for StarCraft and the world’s first eSports professional, who then moved into iGaming first as a professional poker player, then as a super affiliate and on to owning a Class 4 on 3 Licensed operator in Malta. Mr. Martyn currently owns GosuGamers.net, the #1 Global eSports Media site. With this long-term viewpoint of the markets, Mr. Martyn adds invaluable insight into the potential audience and integration of that audience into a more traditional operator’s portfolio. Notes Mr. Martyn, “The reality is that the eSports point of view is incomprehensible to betting operators and no one is currently hitting the nail on the head. The old guard has no idea what they’re getting themselves into with eSports and while they’ll have some level of success applying sports betting logic and traditional metrics while just tucking it into their portfolio, the emotional and psychological makeup of the eSports enthusiast must be taken into consideration”.
Martin Dreymann co-founded EBETTLE in 2014, a bookmaker with focus on the eSport segment. In relation to iGaming, he is a bit atypical since he had no background in sports betting before founding eBettle. This uncharacteristic perspective means Mr. Dreymann has a more organically derived view of the overlap and potential between the two worlds of betting and eSports. As he describes it, “In my opinion, it is not really a question of if eSports has a long term spot in the array of gaming products as it should have. Otherwise you will likely miss out on the largest betting market of the future”.
All the panelists are well-positioned to address a potential concern of the audience: maintaining the integrity of the games. It’s a crucial consideration for legitimacy and public relations aspects of iGaming operations. With million dollar-plus prize pools and potentially millions of dollars being wagered on tournament outcomes, cheating has become a legitimate worry. As the profile of eSports grows with major media brands covering tournaments and even creating their own tournaments, integrity in the sport becomes paramount. And as the segment expands, so does the likelihood disputes will arise between participating teams, league owners and media outlets that can cause unwanted PR and legal entanglements.
As eSports evolves and absorbs the lessons of other gaming and betting products that forged new technological ground, sessions like the MiGS fishbowl are fundamentally important to move the segment forward. Attendees with the vision to expand their offering to include eSports can’t afford to miss the opportunity to participate in this forum with the likes of the experts assembled on the eSports Evolution panel.
The Malta iGaming Seminar is being held over 7-9 November at the Hilton Malta and the eSports Evolution panel is being held on 9 November at 14:45. For more information on the event, to register to attend and view the full conference programme, visit www.maltaigamingseminar.com.