From the crackdown on skins, and Valve’s cease and desist note, to six figure team sponsorships, and a formal regulatory note by the UKGC 2016 was quite a year for esports betting. On the sportsbook side the majority of well known bookmakers in the UK now offer, or have offered, esports markets in some form.
For some of these it quickly became a top five market. Moving onwards in 2017 the expectation is that it will continue to grow at an impressive rate as traders come to better understand the dynamics around it which’ll lead to a more focused and diverse set of markets for punters.
Based in Bulgaria, Ultraplay is one of the major odds suppliers, and has made ample moves to support the scene too in the form of the Outlaws academy and the Balkan Proleague. The company will also be presenting an esports seminar at ICE Totally Gaming in London.
We had a chat with Chief Marketing Office at Ultraplay, Mario Ovcharov.
Esports Insider: Bookmaker sponsorships have begun to enter esports increasingly via teams and leagues; with NiP and Betway and the Vitalbet Balkan Proleague. These sponsorships are at significantly different tiers of esports however with the latter far more ‘grassroots’, what are the pros and cons of such varied focuses in bookie sponsorships?
Mario: As esports is now a feature desired by almost every sportsbook operator those moves are critical when trying to create a good reputation and get under the skin of the esports punters. We know that these are a completely new breed of bettors that have different habits and demands.
The only obvious cons are that there is still quite a significant underage crowd which is exposed to esports, and therefore its sponsors and supporters, but we see that in every other sport and it’s considered acceptable.
Esports Insider: Another grassroots project is the creation of the Outlaws academy. They’ve been making some strides in CS:GO and will be appearing at ICE (Stand S3-140)
Mario: Yes, we are bringing them to the conference and there will be a few interesting activities that visitors can participate in and win prizes with the Outlaws brand. There is also one famous tournament that they will be playing directly from the stand and it will be broadcast on large screens.
“Seeing the growth of our CS:GO team is inspiring and it creates an amazing atmosphere for all our employees as their job is in the esports sphere”
We are very happy we got involved in such a way with the academy. We are constantly looking to expand our capacity in new games and scenes. Seeing the growth of our CS:GO team is inspiring and it creates an amazing atmosphere for all our employees as their job is in the esports sphere.
Esports Insider: Is extended live streaming of events something that Ultraplay are going to focus on in 2017? This seems especially important on mobile with Newzoo’s revelations that more and more esports enthusiasts are consuming content on such devices..
Mario: We have always aimed to have a quality product for the mobile environment. Our applications allow for an easy and understandable experience when betting or simply watching the game there.
We have something in mind that will create even easier interaction by having the ability to bet while watching in fullscreen on your device.
Esports Insider: 2016 saw Starcraft somewhat collapse as one of the ‘big titles’, how did the market volume alter on individual titles as the year progressed, and how do you envisage this heading into 2017? Overwatch looks set to have a big year…
Mario: Great question! It’s true that we saw the end of one of the most interesting and competitive formats in the SK Telecom Pro League. Its unique format and the high level of the Korean players made it the most anticipated for both viewing and betting. There is still the GSL and the Starleague but they come with a very different format.
“The volumes on Dota, CS:GO and LoL are constantly increasing and we project these to triple in 2017”
There wasn’t a significant drop in the betting volume around operators on SCII but it’s a fact that there was a drop. In my opinion, and by seeing the stats amongst operators, SCII was never a ‘big title’ as far as betting is concerned. I could say that Overwatch managed to gain much more interest for such a short period of time. The volumes on Dota, CS:GO and LoL are constantly increasing and we project that these will triple in 2017.
More engagement is created with all the tournaments becoming larger by all indicators. In 2017 we will see more events and more coverage of the low tier and local events. These are highly popular amongst the community as they provide an opportunity for smaller and not so wealthy organisations to shine.
Esports Insider: You’ve big plans for ICE – what can attendees expect from visiting the stand? And what will those going to the Ultraplay workshop gain?
Mario: There will be a lot of interaction with the players and different games that can win the visitors many types of prizes.
“We will speak about how esports betting websites are performing as business ventures and which is the best approach”
We will be presenting the newest product under the Ultraplay family: The Sky City Live Casino. This is a modern and high end live Casino oriented for the Asian market.
For the workshop we’ve prepared solid statistics, facts and comparisons between the different regions and on what is the real role of esports in the overall business of sports betting. We will also speak about how esports betting websites are performing as business ventures and which is the best approach to take.