22 April, 2021

More than a flash in the pandemic

2020 was a breakthrough year for esports betting, and affiliates can certainly capitalise in 2021, according to Luckbox affiliates manager Mike Bazzi.

Esports has been "the next big thing" in the igaming space for what seems like forever, but last year that claim came into sharper focus, with the global pandemic thrusting the sector well and truly into the limelight.

This time last year, pretty much all forms of live entertainment were on hold, and it was esports' time to shine, with most tournaments able to continue, albeit in an online-only format.

At Luckbox, we saw a revenue uptick of 500% during that period, and the wider igaming industry also noticed an increase in esports betting, with EveryMatrix reporting a 40-times growth and FIFA and NBA2K accounting for about 80% of that volume.

Of course, most top-level sports have thankfully been able to resume and the list of most popular sports to bet on has returned to something closer to normal. But make no mistake, esports betting isn't just a fleeting trend.

Affiliates on alert
For the vast majority of affiliates, esports traffic currently will be low priority, well behind the likes of sports and casino. However, times are changing. Esports has been identified as the sport with the highest growth potential, ahead of basketball and football, while global gross gaming revenue generated from esports betting is projected to rise from $343m to $862m by 2024.

For affiliates interested in future-proofing their model, esports has to be the number-one consideration.

Operators are quickly realising the value of esports traffic, made up of an enviable demographic who are aged 18 to 35, well educated and with access to sizable disposable incomes. Just like sports traffic, after acquisition, esports players can be cross-sold into casino, vastly increasing lifetime value and, of course, affiliate commission.

Another key year for esports
While esports proved itself to be somewhat pandemic-resistant, make no mistake: it was another of the many industries hurt by Covid-19. Hosting tournaments online is a great backup plan, but it's by no means ideal, with fans missing from events throughout most of last year.

We were also robbed of the chance to see teams from different continents facing each other as, even online, teams need to be at least on the same continent to avoid latency that would ruin matches.

The calendar itself was also heavily disrupted, with the Dota International being the highest-profile casualty. The International 10 was due to be held in Stockholm in August with a prize pool of more than $40m, but it had to be postponed, along with the rest of the Dota Pro Circuit.

This year, however, there is optimism that we'll see fans back in arenas, The International go ahead and, generally, a more healthy esports calendar. Indeed, the Dota Pro Circuit is back up and running and the ONE Esports Singapore Major was in action, the first Dota Major for more than a year.

The CS:GO calendar already looks much stronger for 2021 than it did last year, and February's IEM Katowice went ahead as an in-person event, while the League of Legends World Championship was held in front of a live audience in China in October.

Alongside the "big three" of CS:GO, Dota and LoL, there is a new game for fans and bettors to get excited about. Riot Games' new title Valorant has hit the ground running and looks to have a hugely promising competitive scene, with the game publishers supporting the esports calendar.

A new frontier
Affiliates will no doubt be aware of the developing situation in North America, with an increasing number of US states legalising gambling and Canadian lawmakers on the path to allowing single-event wagering.

This month, a legislator in Nevada introduced a bill to create the Nevada Esports Commission that would see esports events regulated in similar fashion to the Athletic Commission. Esports is hugely popular in North America and this no doubt promises to be fertile ground for operators and affiliates in the best position to pounce.




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