In early April, Genius Sports announced a partnership with gaming platform provider and creators of the Esports Championship Series (ECS), FACEIT. The partnership got underway with Season 3 of the ECS on April 14th with the aim being to enhance the way data and statistics are used in the ECS.
We spoke to Moritz Maurer, Head of Esports at Genius Sports to find out more about the deal.
ESI: Congratulations on the deal with ECS and FACEIT. What motivated Genius Sports to partner with FACEIT in this way?
MM: Genius Sports is a true partner to sports which leverages its innovative technology and integrity services to help sports drive fan engagement, broaden their reach and protect their games from potential harm. FACEIT, a world leader in esports, offers a ground-breaking league model with the Esports Championship Series (ECS) which aligns with our mission to deliver sustainable technical products and services that give the sports the necessary tools to unlock the full value of their own data through multiple revenue streams.
ESI: What are the main aims of the partnership from a Genius point of view?
MM: Genius Sports has invested significantly into esports enabling the industry to see increased value through distribution of its data through media and sports betting. Initially our investment into the development of modelled data solutions resulted, in late 2015, with the launch of the world’s first in-play B2B esports betting products. However, more recently we have seen new opportunities to leverage this technology through media applications which culminated in the launch of the Genius esports platform that will help drive fan engagement and ultimately improve accessibility.
“Genius Sports has invested significantly into esports enabling the industry to see increased value through distribution of its data through media and sports betting.”
Furthermore, as FACEIT’s chosen technology partner, we have a responsibility to safeguard the integrity of their events by providing systems that monitor and safeguard against the threats of match-fixing and betting-related corruption. As FACEIT and the wider esports community understands, protecting the integrity of games is fundamental to the continued success and explosive growth of esports around the world.
ESI: How important are deals like this to safeguard the integrity of esports? Is there still a big integrity issue in your opinion?
MM: FACEIT understands the importance of introducing the right code of conduct for their players, teams and leagues and selected Genius Sports as the most trusted and respected integrity partner to sports governing bodies such as the English Premier League. FACEIT will also use our technology to monitor the liquidity of regulated and unregulated betting markets around the world to help identify potential match-fixing threats.
“Given the size and scope of the unregulated esports betting market around the world, as highlighted by the skins betting issue, it is fair to say that the industry faces significant integrity related challenges”
Furthermore, we will continue to serve the wider esports community by providing educational programmes and awareness raising events across the industry. Given the size and scope of the unregulated esports betting market around the world, as highlighted by the skins betting issue, it is fair to say that the industry faces significant integrity related challenges and, therefore, needs to equip itself with the latest and most sophisticated preventative systems.
ESI: What will this mean for your betting product? Specifically on the in-play side, does it mean you’ll have the most comprehensive and accurate product?
MM: It is recognised by the industry that our product is the best and most comprehensive B2B solution, especially on the in-play side which has been the primary development direction and driver of revenue for our customers.
Therefore it is not surprising that competitors who venture into this space have now come to understand that this is where the potential is in esports, given the high-octane nature of the games.
Having exclusive access to FACEIT’s ECS data solidifies our position in the market with the most competitive in-game solution. Given the intensity and complexity of the in-game experience, we understand the unique challenges that esports events pose in comparison to other sports and have developed the Genius esports platform to deliver market-leading solutions for our customers both in terms of the betting market and in the media space.
ESI: With so many leagues, so many tournaments and so many different parties in the esports world – is it necessary to establish partnerships across a multitude of esports with regards to data?
MM: Fragmentation of data is a challenge in esports which is amplified in some games more than others due to the structure dictated by the game publisher. We see the partnership with FACEIT as a role model for the interaction of technology and service providers, like Genius Sports, and esports bodies with the goal of expanding our partner portfolio across all relevant esports franchises.
“Fragmentation of data is a challenge in esports which is amplified in some games more than others due to the structure dictated by the game publisher.”
Our model is a true platform solution expressing our inclusive approach dedicated to esports as a whole by sharing the benefits of our proprietary technology and data solutions.
ESI: As far as I’m aware, publishers like Riot Games and Blizzard don’t allow their data to be pulled live. Does this pose a huge barrier to betting? Do publishers need to be more receptive and embrace gambling to allow the space to grow?
MM: Understandably, publishers are sensitive to the potential risks that betting-related activity might pose to their industry, however, whether they choose to accept it or not, betting on esports already exists on a massive scale in both regulated and unregulated markets.
Experience has taught us that avoiding the issue or shying away from engaging with the regulated market, instead of tackling the issue head on, often results in greater integrity issues as activity is driven underground into the murky world of illegal betting. This is illustrated by the recent CS:GO skin betting epidemic involving Valve’s franchise/platform and various illegal skin betting websites. A useful first step might be for publishers, like other sports leagues around the world, to grasp the nettle and tackle the issue head on by engaging with companies like ours to educate themselves about the scope of the esports betting market and what they can do to protect the integrity of their competitions.
ESI: At the press release, it was teased that Genius Sports data software can bring some incredible things to the FACEIT side. Can you provide any more information? Is it data and statistics that can improve their broadcasting side?
MM: The digital nature of esports lends itself – more than traditional sports – to exciting interactions of real-time predictive analysis and performance indicators that can be infused into broadcasting in order to create unique fan experiences and unlock new levels of engagement for viewers. Developing data visualisation assets and score applications is at the core of Genius Sports’ business model. We are excited about this opportunity to showcase our technology with a great partner who understands the potential and has been leading in the area for years.
Prepare for some cool things to come in the upcoming ECS seasons. We are looking to equip our partner with the best technology in order to provide the best environment for participating teams and players as well as the best experiences for fans.