The Esports industry has been thriving with hundreds of millions of people worldwide watching competitive gaming. Esports betting and sports gambling have blended well together in recent years.
The rise in prominence and it’s positive effects were more than welcomed by bookmakers. Traditional sports and esports odds are now featured at many of the same sites, with a good portion of sportsbooks exclusively focused on them.
Bringing the question: “Can video games surpass traditional sports betting?” is something of an inevitability at this point. While Esports has earned a lot of respect in the least amount of time when it comes to betting, it still pales in comparison to wagering volumes generated by traditional sports. Let’s take a look at the viability of closing the gap on sports like Football, and how long it’s going to take for Esports to catch up if ever.
Esports growth in latest years
Simply put, the Esports vertical has enjoyed mind-blowing success. It has been growing in popularity with more than 20% on a year-to-year basis, per Newzoo Global Esports Market Report. The audience numbers are getting bigger every year, with 2020’s lockdown and sports suspension being a major boost.
In fact, the research shows the global esports audience went up from 442 million in 2019 to 495 million by the end of 2020. Esports enthusiasts accounted for 222.9 million of this number, up 25 million year on year. With a compound annual growth rate (2018-2023) of +11.3% , they will increase to 295.4 million. That puts this key audience on pace to almost double over a six-year period in 2023, as the 2017 audience stood at 330 million.
And while competitive gaming continues to grow itself in the popular culture, global investors, brands, media outlets, consumers, and betting companies are all paying attention. The improved visibility and rise in global popularity made bookmakers to view Esports as a valuable asset.
Health Crisis Effect on Sports Betting
The events of 2020 sent the world into a frenzy affecting all types of industries. With that said the past year has been especially weird for the gambling industry, with the impact COVID-19 had on sports betting. With sport events cancelled across the globe, and to reduce the negative effects, the gambling industry turned to esports as a savior. The unusual circumstances created an opportunity for esports to reach a new audience that it might not otherwise reach. Eventually it turned out esports might be more than an emergency solution, and the numbers started backing it up.
The pandemic has accelerated esports betting several years into the future and that growth is sustained even though traditional sports events have come back since.
Do Esports have enough potential to surpass Traditional Sports in Gambling?
The rise of esports wagering, especially year-to-year growth, is stellar. Yet, it still has long ways to go until it catches up with traditional sports. Turnovers are still many times lower than the top 10 traditional sports, and the average bet size is on the low side as well ranging between 20€ and 30€.
Sports and betting have been there since ancient times, a luxury that Esports doesn’t particularly enjoy. The Esports betting product is still far less developed compared to traditional sports. Up until a few years ago, there weren’t many options available in terms of offered betting markets. Not to mention the live betting uptime was around 20-30%.
In part thanks to the pandemic, esports fans now enjoy a wider coverage of esports titles, more betting markets and almost 90% live uptime. There are more than 40,000 events on 15 titles now available for betting, Odds comparison and live scores website Oddspedia.com reported. Such developments will help the Esports product catch up to their historically optimized counterpart.
One of the biggest strengths coming into play for Esports is its demographics. Traditional sports draw a wide range of gamblers who are both young and old, with an average age of 47. Esports, meanwhile, have a young fanbase with an average age of 27. Adults aged 18-25 are much more likely to follow Esports rather than regular sports, and this will be a fact for younger generations as well. These gaming enthusiasts and younger chunk of gamers will boost esports betting turnovers when it comes to age.
That’s the argument to make against traditional sports betting. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon when it comes to the long run. With the Esports industry constantly growing, the gambling industry needs to focus on improvements to its esports betting offering to fully enjoy the benefits.
The top tier traditional sports still bring in the most revenue, and beat esports betting numbers by a wide margin. There is no reason to believe that sportsbooks will not continue relying on them for the foreseeable future.
In summary, right now, the value per fan may not be very large in Esports. But as data suggests Esports is a fast-growing industry and so far it has shown no signs of slowing down. In the past few years, video games have grown significantly in terms of viewership and revenue. If they keep growth at this pace, they can catch up with traditional sports in many ways. That includes betting volumes and revenue as early as the end of the decade.