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European Gaming: Esports round-table feature

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European Gaming: Esports round-table feature
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The growing value of esports

Esports betting has exploded in popularity across the past year and shows no sign of slowing down, with a huge number of in-play markets now available to players. In this round-table feature, Alexandr Iaroshenko, CEO of BetBazar, Sergey Tsukanov, Head of Sportsbook at Betby and Rohini Sardana, Head of Product Propositions at SIS, discuss the driving forces behind the fastest growing vertical in sports betting.

Esports betting grew hugely during the pause in sports last year, but what factors are behind its continuing appeal?

Rohini Sardana: “The entertaining experience that esports betting offers is what ultimately keeps bettors coming back for more. The suspension of live sports last year undoubtedly helped to bring it to the attention of a wider audience, but its continued engagement would not be possible without a strong product in the first place. In fact, demand is as strong as ever for our content. Through our esports betting product, SIS Competitive Gaming has increased output of events by 800% compared to the same period last year, due to strong customer demand, with stream downloads for our events still very high. It is safe to say that esports betting has established itself within the wider sportsbook ecosystem and that demand continues to grow.”

Alexandr Iaroshenko: “Players had the time to get to know a new product during this time that they now love. The last year showed the need for entertainment and filler activity. This is largely as a result of timing, but our time to market also played a huge role here. We are very proud because even though this is a product that was enjoyed because other forms of entertainment were scarce, it continues to be enjoyed in significant numbers. It is a solid offering that was in the right place at the right time to kick off.”

FIFA and NBA2K are particularly popular as a betting option for sportsbook customers, but is there a divide between these disciplines and followers of other Esports events?

Alexandr Iaroshenko: “People want to bet on live events and it becomes vital that they get their results quickly. This is what has helped esports’ popularity to grow so rapidly. When it comes to games like League of Legends and Defence of the Ancients – which aren’t based on sports – results may vary largely depending on different demographics. The new generation of player is more focused on the ‘computer game’ elements of esports, such as Battle Royale or Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds – if they like those types of games, they will still bet on those even when they aren’t into sports. However, it is fair to say that betters of esports that are based on traditional sports like football and basketball are much more reliable bettors that those that follow LoL or DoTA.

Sergey Tsukanov: “Of course, the most popular sports have always attracted players that differ from the followers of more traditional esports markets. FIFA and NBA2K markets, perhaps unsurprisingly, have a much bigger following amongst soccer and basketball fans than from followers of other esports markets, and for this reason, FIFA and NBA2K have become a staple of our classic market offering. That said, it must be noted that despite their differences, players at both ends of the spectrum universally prefer it when competitive games are played without real players, instead using AI-led technology to add to the random nature of the results.”

Rohini Sardana: “The core elements of the product remain the same, regardless of whether you are offering FIFA 21 matches or first-person shooter events. The availability of quality live streams and a variety of markets, all underpinned by strong integrity, are the key fundamentals that are required for every single esports betting opportunity. Of course, sports-themed games are more likely to resonate with existing sports bettors given the familiar characteristics. We have seen great success with our NBA2K head-to-head games given basketball’s global appeal. Moving forward, we are planning additional titles to help us expand our content offer, which will further help operators drive profitable revenues.”

What are the challenges involved in offering live streaming and in-play betting across esports events taking place 24/7, across the world?

Sergey Tsukanov: “The challenges vary in different locations, but they are the same for all elements of iGaming, not just esports. Internet penetration, mobile play, latency of streaming, and so on. However, the benefits of providing clear, accessible, and most importantly, popular content for users, clearly have a positive impact for both products and turnover. This is the key to maintaining our audiences and attracting new users.”

Rohini Sardana: “The lack of resources that have the specialist knowledge of esports betting appears to have been one of the main challenges for operators. Esports betting solutions are still in the early stages of the product lifecycle and there is an element of risk for sportsbooks trading on such events, particularly the potential for savvy esports bettors getting the upper hand. Partnering with third party providers such as SIS, that have relevant knowledge of esports is highly advantageous, giving operators the confidence and trust that the products being offered are reliable and relevant. At SIS we have more than 30 years’ experience of live streaming and data distribution, and we partner with 400 customers across 45 countries, which gives operators peace of mind that SIS Competitive Gaming is an esports betting product they can depend on. We have low latency live streams available for our content, running throughout the day to serve our global customer base. The frequent and high uptime betting opportunities have proven to be popular with both operators and bettors across multiple markets in recent months.”

Alexandr Iaroshenko: “This is our speciality and we can take two approaches. Firstly, there is live streaming. There are lots of challenges that an operator needs to be prepared for. Organising the right people and level of play to make the product popular and keep it running 24/7 can be difficult. There needs to be a product on tap that can constantly engage players. One focus should be on growing our existing player base and the other should be retaining them. In terms of organising these events, we have partners in Europe that have created their own Esports academy to help develop the players of the future and create top-class tournaments and other activities. Secondly, there is in-play. This is the odds and infrastructure to supply sportsbook. We have a team placed to constantly trade and price. It can be challenging to provide underdog or favourites for events, which motivates players to play. We work hard to deliver this and the latest in tech to price these games like never before. This involves investing in the best in maths models to ensure we can deliver.”

How is AI having an impact, both from an odds-setting perspective and in producing human-versus-AI content?

Rohini Sardana: “Accessibility and accuracy of data plays a key role in establishing a betting product’s usability. Esports games are visually rich and provide more data points than sportsbooks would have consumed with other sports content. This vast amount of data needs to be processed to create a good user experience, and processing vast amount of data, efficiently, requires the use of technological advancements such as AI.”

Alexandr Iaroshenko: “In terms of betting, we have mathematical models which are stats-driven and give us a concrete prediction via an algorithm. This involves so many variables and no fewer than 15,000 events every month, which enables us to constantly learn and evolve to better understand and price games. As a result, we are able to provide some of the most accurate odds in the business. We take this very seriously and when our traders join, they go through a vigorous player schedule to prepare. AI verses live human bears a strikingly similarity to RNG vs. live action. In this instance, the operator is relying on an RNG bot originally created by EA Sports, which has nothing to do with the world of betting. It’s simply a black box inside the game that determines the action. Players simply have less trust in this.”

Sergey Tsukanov: “At Betby, we primarily employ AI technology to acquire live data. We want to use AI to create mathematical models to produce enhanced odds, but when generating odds, it doesn’t differ too much from the traditional aspects. What does set AI apart is generating results with innovative AI software to ensure that our products are available 24/7 across all markets, providing users with the best possible environment to place their bets, all the time.”

What can the traditional sports betting world learn, if anything, from the new breed of quick-fire esports betting opportunities?

Sergey Tsukanov: “If you compare traditional sports betting markets with these modern AI-led esports solutions, you can see a few differences. The new markets are available around the clock, utilise innovative mathematical models that make the games more efficient, and provide a variety of previously unseen markets for users to enjoy – there really is something for everyone. For me, it’s not even about betting, and more about the phenomenon of soccer and basketball losing popularity amongst young people. Officials really need to look into how to attract young people to soccer again, and they could do this with faster game formats or the equivalent of an All-Star match. As for betting, with the current format of soccer and basketball competitions locked securely in place, it’s very difficult to invent something new. Instead, we have explored making our platform more efficient and user-friendly to help players place bets as efficiently as possible, and it has paid off.”

Rohini Sardana: “For sportsbooks, offering esports betting opportunities has now become a necessity. The strong demand for this type of content and the resulting engagement levels means that these events cannot be ignored. Sportsbooks already value quick-fire betting opportunities that horse and greyhound racing and virtual sports offer, and esports events can provide a similar format with results within minutes of a bet being placed.”

Alexandr Iaroshenko: “In sports betting, we see a lot of hype for a lot of products and, more often than not, this burns out quickly. Looking at the most popular esports titles at the moment including Counter Strike, LoL and DoTA – these are now making esports history and I believe they’re here to stay. Live sports and esports have reached a synergistic co-operative relationship, where, for example, esports supports the hype for an overall event. There is no threat that esports will cannibalise sports. In fact, what we have seen is that it works as a complementary product.”

eSports

Galaxy Racer content creator and YouTube sensation AboFlah smashes two GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ titles while raising over US$11M for charity

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Galaxy Racer content creator and YouTube sensation AboFlah smashes two GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ titles while raising over US$11M for charity
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Galaxy Racer (GXR), the biggest esports, gaming and lifestyle organisation, headquartered in Dubai, is pleased to announce that its content creator, AboFlah, has successfully raised over US$11M in a charity stream for The World’s Coolest Winter campaign. Whilst completing the stream, AboFlah also officially broke two GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ titles for the “Longest live-stream (video)”, recording live for 268 hours 14 mins 20 seconds and “Most viewers for a charity donation live stream on YouTube”, attracting 698,000 peak concurrent views.

The World’s Coolest Winter campaign, celebrates the UAE’s most beautiful tourism destinations, extended it’s humanitarian support to more than 100,000 refugees and people in need through a new humanitarian initiative called Warm Winter. The campaign aims to support hundreds of thousands of refugees and families in need in Africa and the Arab world by providing food, winter clothing, blankets, mattresses and critical aid to help displaced men, women and children prepare for harsh winter conditions. The campaign is being held in partnership with Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) and Galaxy Racer. The essential aid will be distributed with the support of the UN refugee agency, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Food Banking Regional Network.

As part of the campaign, AboFlah lived in a glass room in Downtown Dubai, near the Burj Khalifa and streamed continuously for 268 hours until the target of US$10 million was raised. While in the room, AboFlah encouraged people to donate and spent the majority of his time in front of his computer interacting with fans and those donating to the cause. The stream also attracted global attention and donations from celebrities and influencers including the likes of actress Kristin Davies, actor Amr Maskoun as well as content creators Noor Stars and Omar Farooq.

Launching his YouTube channel in 2017, AboFlah began posting gaming content of him playing FIFA17 before creating content on Fall Guys and Fortnite. His YouTube channel is one of the fastest-growing YouTube channels in the world, with over 23 million subscribers and over 3 billion views. He is followed by millions of fans who avidly watch his vlogs, comedy shorts and formatted shows covering video games and popular culture. AboFlah went on to join Galaxy Racer’s content creator team in 2020, which already boasts some of the biggest content creators in the MENA and Southeast Asia region including fellow YouTube sensation Noor Stars. The organisation now carries over 100 content creators, with a total reach of over 500 million followers across all platforms and more than 2.5 billion monthly views.

Galaxy Racer launched in 2019 and has already become one of the biggest esports, gaming, and lifestyle organisations globally. The organisation has five separate business offerings; Content Creators, Esports Teams, Tournament Management, Merchandising and Lifestyle and GXR Records, a newly established record label that already carries two signed artists from the MENA region and are looking to expand globally.

Galaxy Racer content creator and YouTube sensation, Hassan Suleiman “AboFlah” said: “Warmth in winter for those facing harsh winter conditions is no less important than food and water. There are millions of refugees and displaced people who need all the support they can get. I am proud and thrilled we achieved our goal and raised over US$11 million and brought warmth to the lives of those who are deprived of it. Thank you to everyone who generously donated!

We have proven that Arab youth are capable of changing reality, even with small deeds, and reaching a bright future. “People for People.” This sentence is not a metaphorical slogan, but it was manifested by the huge numbers of donors who felt compassion toward the suffering of refugees and displaced people. This reflects the huge impact this campaign had, which drove viewers’ enthusiasm for participation.

The societal role depends on everyone’s participation, believing in the importance of upholding our human values, and the solidarity in supporting the ones in need. Everyone of us has a role to play in creating the desired positive impact. UAE is the homeland of virtues, and the humanitarian moral actions in this blessed country transcend borders and can’t be stopped by obstacles, such deeds present the community with moral values that our Arab region is in dire need for.”

Galaxy Racer Founder and CEO, Paul Roy said: “We are amazed and grateful by the immense generosity shown by the fans, community and the general public. Raising over US$11 million is no easy task and we’re glad to be part of this humanitarian initiative which will positively impact the affected 100,000 refugees. Smashing two GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ titles is impressive and a testament to the resilience shown by AboFlah, the Galaxy Racer team, together with our partners MBRGI, UNHCR and the Food Banking Regional Network. We thank you everyone for participating in this record-breaking charity initiative and we look forward to more positive impact initiatives.”

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eSports

Winline and Epic Esports Events announces Winline Dota 2 Champions League Season 7

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Winline and Epic Esports Events announces Winline Dota 2 Champions League Season 7
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Epic Esports Events tournament operator and Winline betting partner with the Russian Esports Federation support present Winline Dota 2 Champions League Season 7. The new season will be held from January 24 to February 17, where teams will draw a $50.000 prize pool.

Winline Dota 2 Champions League Season 7 group stage participants:

•  Virtus.pro

•  B8

•  Team Empire

•  Hydra

•  AS Monaco Gambit

•  Gambit Esports

•  Brame

•  Nemiga Gaming

•  Winstrike

•  V-Gaming

•  Entity

•  COOLGUYS

•  CIS Rejects

•  Open Qualifiers winner

The group stage participants with the highest number of points will advance to the playoff stage, where they will compete in the Double Elimination bracket, in the bo3 format up to and including the semifinals. The final match will be played in the bo5 format.

The group stage participants with the highest number of points will advance to the playoff stage, where they will compete in the Double Elimination bracket, in the bo3 format up to and including the semifinals. The final match will be played in the bo5 format.

Prize pool distribution:

  • 1st place — $20.000

  • 2nd place — $10.000

  • 3rd place — $7.000

  • 4th place — $3.500

  • 5th-6th place — $2.500 for each team

  • 7th – 8th place — $1.000 for each team

  • 9th-12th place — $500 for each team

The Russian-language tournaments broadcast is conducted by the RuHub Studio. Broadcasts in English are held by Beyond The Summit studio.

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Asia

ONE Esports and Samsung Enter Long-term Partnership to Launch ONE Esports App

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ONE Esports, a subsidiary of Group ONE Holdings (ONE), has announced it has signed a long-term partnership with Samsung in Southeast Asia.

This is the latest major partnership for ONE Esports, following recent partnership announcements with Activision Blizzard, foodpanda Thailand, Franklin Templeton, FWD, Marriott Bonvoy and McDonald’s Philippines.

This partnership with Samsung will see ONE Esports develop an exclusive ONE Esports mobile app for Samsung devices in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, to be launched in the second half of 2022.

The app will be positioned as the go-to source for esports news and content in Southeast Asia, and will be seamlessly integrated into the ONE Esports media ecosystem, featuring news and content syndicated from ONE Esports’ website, oneesports.gg, which will be localised across each market. Samsung users will also get to enjoy exclusive videos and rewards produced by the ONE Esports team for the app.

The app will be made available in the Samsung Galaxy Store and Google Play Store for over-the-air download exclusively on Samsung mobile devices this year.

“I am proud to announce this partnership with Samsung that brings ONE Esports’ world-class esports content natively on mobile, in collaboration with Southeast Asia’s leader in mobile devices and experiences. Samsung clearly understands that brands need to connect and engage with the next generation to stay ahead of the curve, and mobile devices and esports are two of the most effective ways to reach them. As the penetration of mobile usage and gaming across Southeast Asia continues to grow, this partnership will give the new generation of mobile-first consumers the best way to consume esports content,” Carlos Alimurung, CEO of ONE Esports, said.

“Led by a young, digital, and global audience, esports is shaping up to be the future of sports, media, and entertainment. Through this unprecedented partnership with ONE Esports, we are excited to bring the galaxy of esports to Samsung mobile users, many of whom are passionate about esports and mobile gaming. ONE Esports is uniquely positioned as Southeast Asia’s premier esports media organisation, and our partnership sets the cornerstone for combining the best of esports experiences with the best mobile gaming devices for our customers,” said Chris Tarr, Head of Mobile Services & Partnerships, Southeast Asia and Oceania at Samsung Electronics.

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