It’s not often that a new sport comes along, let alone a sport that captures the imagination of fans across the world. But that’s exactly what has happened with eSports, a class of spectator sport now easily filling stadiums across Asia and elsewhere. The supporting betting industry has also enjoyed rapid growth over the last couple of years, and the profile of the sport continues to rise and rise.
With such an illustrious few years under their belt, you could be forgiven for thinking eSports has reached some kind of a peak. But according to some in the industry, this is only the beginning.
Spencer Yang of Unikrn Asia, a site dedicated to eSports events and betting, suggested that 2018 could be another breakthrough year for eSports, and one in particular where operators and spectators became more comfortable with the idea of betting on esports.
Yang was upbeat about the opportunities in eSports betting, particularly given the booming Asian audiences.
We’ve always been really excited about innovation happening in Asia, in all aspects in eSports. Because of the betting, we are very cautious about this. But this year, we realized, ‘Hey, it’s about time that we focus on this…In China alone, there are over 250 million gamers playing this Arena of Valor. So, right now, we are looking at what we can really do here.”
Yang highlighted how betting on eSports has matured since its origins over the last few years, expanding from simple money lines to more complex bets and offers.
“So I think, what we’ve seen is that eSports betting products are definitely different and yet, at the same time, have many of the good elements from the sportsbook side…So definitely, a lot of innovation and lots of exciting things happening in the space that we are looking forward to, both online and offline.”
Despite only becoming a hot topic in betting circles over the last few years, eSports has a much more established history. The roots of eSports trace back as far as 1972, when Stanford University invited students to participate in a contest over early game Spacewar. By 1980, a score-keeping organisation had been launched, known as Twin Galaxies, which ultimately led to the establishment of the US National Video Game Team in 1983.
While the origins may have been largely in the US, Asia has pulled significantly infront as far as audiences and popularity of modern eSports are concerned. Today, eSports have become so popular, they are to be included in the 2022 Asian Games as a medal sport, one of the first times eSports has been recognised at such a significant level.
Interestingly, ecommerce giants Alibaba are heavily behind eSports, with executive Jack Ma bullish on the opportunities in the space. Alibaba is reported to have invested over $150 million in a Korean eSports organisation, with eSports as a whole responsible for $493 million in revenue in 2016. With the rate of growth showing no sign of stopping, and ever more corporate money entering the fray, the rise and rise of eSports looks unstoppable.
So will 2018 be a breakthrough year for eSports and eSports betting, as predicted? The signs are positive. With the popularity of eSports now gathering pace across Asia and beyond, wider recognition of eSports betting can only be a matter of years, if not months away. For betting operators, this could well spell the next big opportunity, with plenty of potential markets available to entice would-be punters into the eSports domain.