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R&D rethink needed for sportsbooks to harness esports’ power




Esports betting is still grappling with a perception problem amongst operators. Despite the leaps and bounds in product development made by suppliers – particularly in the last two years – esports hasn’t shaken off the image built in the late 2010s.

Our good friend, Oliver Niner, Head of Sales at PandaScore, has been kind to share the below article with us.

There’s scepticism around esports betting’s value, how well it can actually perform and what’s needed to make it appeal to bettors. A big part of that comes down to perception, which shapes the research and development (R&D) choices made by each operator.

Self-fulfilling prophecy?

Operators who have put the research and development (R&D) resources into esports are seeing excellent growth, while others are still treating it like part of a long tail. The lack of a uniform approach to esports often translates into hesitancy to be bullish and invest in esports.

Whereas in the United States, post-PASPA sports betting has exploded and operators are seeking to capture as much territory and market share as possible because in most cases, you switch the lights on and the money comes in. It’s, of course, good business sense to take opportunities like this – you can apply the same templates used elsewhere on an incredibly lucrative market.

This kind of approach has been attempted for esports and hasn’t found the same success. Granted, the legislation for betting on esports has been somewhat slower than that of sports betting and iGaming.

However, bullish operators have acknowledged the fact that esports hasn’t found the same success in regulated states and asked what can be done differently, while for others, esports has been thrown into the too-hard basket or relegated to the bargain bucket.

For the latter, the fate of the esports vertical becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – especially if an operator already using a budget esports product that throttles its very growth.

It takes two to tango

When esports is discussed in broader betting circles, you’ll often hear different versions of the same talking point: the problem with esports is no one is doing it well, it doesn’t innovate.

This argument is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Esports is a driver of innovation, and it is sportsbook R&D that is holding it back.

Multiple suppliers on the market are investing significant resources into R&D, and bullish operators are leveraging these product innovations to acquire new customers and create engagements made for the internet age.

There are understandable reasons why sports betting doesn’t innovate. It’s largely because operators focus on acquisition, entering new territories and spending money on data rights. But the actual R&D on sportsbook products is left lacking, with ever-increasing cost-per-acquisition (CPA) numbers a clear symptom of this.

It means that if an operator does decide to use or acquire an esports specialist supplier but does little to cater its product and attempts to just lay the sports betting template over the top, of course performance will be throttled.

It’s like putting a Ferrari engine in a Prius – no offence to Toyota or Prius owners.

The same problem exists on the platform supplier front. Platforms are understandably focused on compliance and getting customers live, not necessarily improving models or their products.

Even the idea that if you just acquire an innovative company the problem is solved or you have found the solution, doesn’t hold water. In many cases, the company is acquired and plenty of noise is made about it, but there’s little organisational investment in R&D afterwards.

It’s not just in esports

These problems extend to customer acquisition and marketing for most emerging markets, not just esports. There’s a rush to use the same old playbook in newer sectors because it’s easy.

The fantasy vs. house sector in the US is already experiencing an acquisition arms race. As analyst Dustin Gouker points out, deposit match bonuses for new users on fantasy vs house products have jumped from $100 to as high as $500 in some places.

This is the same race that played out in sports betting and despite the costs, there’s little effort from most operators to try something different. There’s less work when you just put the same acquisition template on an emerging sector and call it a day. This seems to be an accepted practice in the industry, for better or for worse.

Esports betting success requires ongoing dialogue

Rather than attempting to wedge esports into hegemonic sportsbook approaches, sportsbooks need to take a completely unique approach.

The fact is the betting sector has barely scratched the surface – communities of esports fans are still dormant. Canadian operator Rivalry has built a successful, esports-first business by embracing the ever-changing internet culture that esports inhabits. French esports organisation Karmine Corp recently sold out a 30,000-person stadium for an event with no prize money up for grabs.

Innovative products developed on the supplier side like microbetting and betbuilders are only half of the equation.

Maximising esports revenues requires institutional investment, ongoing R&D and collaboration between suppliers and operators to create products and experiences. This includes having staff on the operator side that can drive and push the product further, and crucially, rethinking current sportsbook strategies and practices.

Building experiences for betting’s greatest emerging market – one that caters to your future core audience – takes investment, innovation and a willingness to experiment. If the industry wants to make the most of the Millennial and Gen Z audience that will become its primary customers, investment into R&D and close collaboration between suppliers and operators is needed. Many hands makes light work.



Zenni Optical Announces Partnership with ESL FACEIT Group (EFG)




Zenni Optical, the world’s leading online eyewear retailer, announced a partnership with ESL FACEIT Group (EFG), the leading esports and video game entertainment company. Designed to integrate eye health education with innovative eyewear solutions for the esports community, the partnership will officially launch at DreamHack festival in Dallas, taking place from May 31 to June 2.

This collaboration will showcase a co-branded collection of lifestyle and competitive eyewear and accessories, highlighting Zenni Optical’s commitment to promoting overall eye health, particularly in addressing issues like eye fatigue and strain. Additionally, the initiative will incorporate essential eye health education across various DreamHack Festivals, in alignment with EFG’s broader mission to foster inclusive gaming worlds and engaged, supported communities.

“DreamHack and ESL represent some of the most community-centric and prestigious competitive events in the world. In their own unique ways, they embody esports for everyone. By partnering with these incredible brands across the gaming and esports spaces, we aim to create engaging experiences that combine eye-health education with innovative eyewear solutions for players and fans at all levels,” said Robb Chiarini, Head of Gaming, Sports, & Events at Zenni Optical.

“We are thrilled to partner with Zenni Optical as the Official Eyewear Partner of DreamHack and ESL. The genuine passion that Zenni has for the esports industry is a refreshing sight to see, and a major driving factor for the decision behind our partnership. Zenni’s ongoing commitment to provide eyewear for everyone mirrors our own drive to create worlds beyond gameplay for gamers everywhere,” Craig Levine, Co-CEO at EFG, said.

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Bucks Gaming’s Cream City Convergence Esports Tournament has been selected as a Capcom Pro Tour event, becoming one of just three tournaments in North America chosen to be a qualifier for the prestigious Capcom Cup.

The Capcom Cup is an annual Street Fighter 6 competition, hosted by video game developer and esports organizer Capcom, with a $1 million first place prize. Each year, Capcom selects a small number of tournaments worldwide to serve as Capcom Pro Tour events, with the winning players from each event qualifying for the Capcom Cup. As one of the tournaments selected by Capcom for the honor this year, Cream City Convergence will become the first esports event run by an NBA team to work with a major esports organizer.

Top-ranked Street Fighter 6 players will compete at Cream City Convergence when it returns for its second year on Saturday, Aug. 24, at Baird Center. In addition to Street Fighter 6, this year’s tournament will also have brackets for Tekken 8; Super Smash Bros Ultimate; Super Smash Bros Melee; and Guilty Gear: Strive.

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Gen.G Acquires League of Legends Data Analytics Platform YOUR.GG




Global esports organization Gen.G announced their acquisition of YOUR.GG, a data analysis and networking platform for League of Legends players. This partnership comes as a new method for Gen.G to enhance the Gen.G Global Academy experience for students in the program. Gen.G is the first global esports academy equipped with such advanced analytical tools to help expand their offering to players looking to improve their game to a professional level.

“Over the last few years, we’ve been hard at work pioneering what is now the world’s largest esports academy. With over 10,000 students having gone through our curriculum, we see the clear need to develop better tools that gamers, coaches, and parents need to create the best gamers possible. YOUR.GG’s best-in-class data, technology and analytics combined with millions of hours of our professional and academy student coaching will be able to unlock the next generations of esports tools that can help realize the true potential of every student and pro in our program,” Arnold Hur, CEO of Gen.G, said.

This acquisition underscores the importance of data and analytics in developing and refining esports talent, a core principle at Gen.G. YOUR.GG will power both its pro team players and its academy students with data-driven tools and reports to foster growth and provide better insight into scouting for new talent.

“We plan to pioneer a shift in how talent is developed and measured in esports. By developing a tool that will bring a level of analysis and precision to esports that mirrors the most sophisticated training environments in traditional sports. We want to take a holistic approach to measure not just the data within the game, but how a student responds to coaching and feedback,” Min Chang Cha, Founder of YOUR.GG and current VP of Technology at Gen.G, said.

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