Making Data Official: How official live esports data came to be

Martin Dachselt is the CEO & Managing Director of Bayes Esports. He writes for Esports Insider to discuss official live data in esports, and how the often overlooked and poorly understood sector came to be.

official data usage esports
Image credit: Bayes Esports

Esports is full of businesses focusing on specialised details and intricacies of various aspects of the industry. Even for esports’ most well-connected, you’re likely to stumble across terms that go unexplained and remain unfamiliar outside their own niche.

‘Official data’ is one such term. Unless you are well versed in the realm of esports data, hearing ‘official data’ might just leave you with more questions than answers.  What even is ‘official data’? What makes it ‘official’? Why is the ‘officiality’ of data a topic of contention in esports (and esports only)? And, most importantly: Why should anyone care whether data is ‘official’ or not? We at Bayes Esports, a provider of official live esports data and services, want to take a step back and provide an introduction to the world of official esports data.

Let’s start with the basics.

ESI Lisbon 2024

When we are talking about sports data, whether that is in traditional sports like football or esports, we are talking about information that transcribes what has happened in the game itself. Sticking to the football example, the data we would be talking about would detail which players were on the pitch, who has scored, who touched the ball at what point and where on the pitch, etc.

That data can then be used by other companies like media outlets or betting operators for their sports coverage or the creation of betting odds. The same holds true for esports, where data of which player did what and when helps various businesses in building their products and services.

So far so good.

Where things get interesting is when we are talking about why that data is collected in the first place. More information on all the events that happened in a game have various benefits. On the one hand it enables the media or broadcast talent to provide more detailed analyses and statistics in their coverage. Meanwhile, betting operators can use the information to provide more accurate betting odds.

But how does one go about collecting data from a sporting event?

In the case of traditional sports, the answer is as simple as it might seem archaic: Scouts. The video feed of sporting events can be used in conjunction with AI and machine learning tools to track and record some aspects of the game. That includes, for example, the position of the ball or player throughout the game. However, there still are some blindspots that cannot be covered by automated tools. That is why Sportradar, who aggregates and distributes sports data, works with thousands of scouts all across the world that watch games live and manually track key data points.

While this may be cumbersome, it’s the best way we have to collect sports data until we find ways to digitalise and automate these aspects as well.

This does, however, not work for esports. Esports is different.

For starters, esports titles move faster than traditional sports. In a game of CS:GO, League of Legends or Dota 2, there is action happening all over the map all the time. An automated system is required for that data to be collected accurately. Moreover, these games are centred around imperfect information. Unlike in traditional sports, teams do not have knowledge of everything their opponents are doing.

In order to prevent players on stage somehow getting information from viewers at home, tournament organisers manually delay the broadcast of their games usually by 300 seconds for online tournaments. Thus, trying to manually or automatically collect the data from the broadcast means collecting data from events that have already happened up to a minute ago. This might not seem like much, but one minute can mean a world of difference for betting operators in particular. Manually collecting data is for sure out of the question.

What data companies for a long time have resorted to doing instead was to set up screen scraping programs using Optical Character Recognition to extract data from the official broadcast of those games. The program would track and record key information visible on the broadcast. But the resulting data sets would suffer from blindspots, inaccuracies, and the inherent delay of the broadcast, though, again, it was the best we had.

This was the esports data of the past.

Esports’ biggest difference compared to traditional sports, however, is that it is entirely digital. Because of that, data of every step, every action, and everything that happens during a game is recorded as soon as it happens in the game servers the games are played on. Meticulously accurate data transcripts of what happened during every esports match already exist. For the longest time, they were in the hands of game developers (the data rights holders) and simply not used.

Bayes Esports company team
Image credit: Bayes Esports

This changed in 2019, when Riot Games and Bayes Esports teamed up for the exclusive distribution of that server data of League of Legends competitions. Since then, the offering for live game server data has only increased for virtually any competition of the big three titles: CS:GO, Dota2 and League of Legends.

Instead of there just being one data offering, there now were two. One was based on screen scraping that suffered from delays and inaccuracies, and one created by the game servers themselves that is, by and large, faultless. The former continues to bypass the rights holders, while the latter is officially licensed by the very same: unofficial vs. official data.

So to recap: Official data is created by the servers that esports games are played on. Tournament organisers own the rights to that data and can sell it to data companies so it may be processed and used for further use cases. For these tournament organisers, being able to monetise their data represents another revenue stream in an industry where many struggle to remain profitable. For data consumers, official data is more accurate, granular, and timely than other offerings, giving these consumers the edge over their competitors. An edge that ultimately manifests itself in a higher user count and better margins.

For us at Bayes Esports, official data represents the cornerstone of the industry. An opportunity for game developers, rights holders, betting companies, and many more stakeholders to come together to develop the products esports fans deserve, protect the integrity of its competitions, and shape the future of the industry. And you are more than welcome to join us.

Esports Insider

Bayes Esports CEO & Managing Director Martin Dachselt has over 20 years of top level management experience in tech startups. He served as CTO of Dojo Madness, Smartfrog and Delivery Hero, and as VP Operations for Click&Buy. At Bayes Esports, he is looking to professionalise the industry and create a sustainable future for everyone involved in esports.

Supported by Bayes Esports