eSports: The mighty rise of skill-based games!

You may have vaguely heard about electronic sports (eSports) on the internet or seen a section offering eSports odds at an online casino you play at that has a sportsbook. Or you may be a member of the millennial generation that grew up with eSports and knows all there is to know about it. Either way, there are numerous industries now scrambling to get their hands on a piece of this lucrative target market.

eSports has become a fast growing sector for playing online games against one another or in teams. Professional teams consist of five players and thousands of viewers gamble on the outcome of these matches.

Large tournaments are held globally all year round, with competing teams playing for a share of very attractive prize pools. Tournaments pack stadiums and online audiences can tune in to watch events live via online streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming. Recent developments have seen major TV networks like TBS and ESPN sign deals to air tournaments later this year.

The renowned market research institute Newzoo has predicted an increase of 56 million so-called ‘eSport enthusiasts’ within the next three years. According to the forecast, the number of eSport fans will grow from 89 million in 2014 to 145 million 2017. This corresponds to a growth rate of 62.92%.

The leading sectors of skill-based gaming offered in professional eSports tournaments are hardcore games like first-person shooters, RPGs and fighting games. Other skill-based genres available to play include fantasy sports, strategy games, puzzle games and racing games.

In terms of prize money, the three most popular games at the moment are “League of Legends,” “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” and “DOTA 2.”

Players are leaving normal jobs to pursue careers in eSports. They eat and train hard; tactics are very important and mental agility is paramount. The career lifespan is very short, around 15 years, and any player over 30 is considered a veteran. More than half (54%) of eSport players hail from Asia.

eSports has caught the attention of online casinos

Year on year, the sector has witnessed exponential growth. Last year, the eSports sector was worth $900 million, and estimates suggest it will smash the $1 billion mark in 2017. Although the Asian market leads the way in market share, North America and Europe only lag slightly behind, accounting for $275 million each.

To get an idea of eSports’ worldwide appeal, 43 million unique viewers tuned in to watch the “League of Legends” World Championship 2016. It is easy to see why eSports has caught the attention of online casinos, regulators and other associated bodies.

The big difference between eSports and more traditional casino games is that eSports are games of skill while casino games are deemed as games of chance. Regulatory bodies have needed to address this. The Maltese Gaming Authority neatly sidestepped this by recently categorizing eSports as games of chance. This means any online casino operating in the Maltese jurisdiction will not have to apply for any new licensing. It remains to be seen how long that lasts.

How can online casinos compete?

eSports is a product of the millennial generation, a generation used to seeing, interacting and being taught through computer games. Millennials who have grown up still want to be immersed in a world of gaming and many who have yet to reach adulthood are only strengthening the market’s future.

eSports is leading the way at revolutionizing the future of online casinos and the way people gamble online. Gamers have no interest in the current selection of slots offered. Online slots will have to adapt to this type of player’s preferences and create online slot products more in keeping with computer games. The trick will be to find ways to implement elements of skill-based games in tournament formats suitable for social media.

The introduction of live casinos has been a success over the last two years in adding a more sociable aspect to online casinos. We have yet to see if the introduction of Virtual Reality (VR) games in online casinos will lure this market to online casino games. The industry is closely monitoring online casinos such as Slotsmillion, who have gone all in by offering the first real-money VR online casino experience.

Many believe eSports will take over as the leader of online gambling. Both land-based and online casinos offering traditional casino games will always have a place, but new gambling forms like eSports will permanently change the face of online casinos.

For the casino industry, any attempt to target the eSports market for conversion truly is a sink or swim dilemma. Online casinos know they can either play it safe and stick to what they offer today or take the plunge into new varieties of online gambling like eSports.