ESports – Are Videogames Seriously A Sport?
For anyone who grew up with memories of pong, plumbers and Pacman, it can be hard to believe that the videogames industry has ballooned to be worth a projected $118.6bn by 2019 and it is now taking the online betting world by storm.
So, What eSports Can You Take A Bet On? And…Can They Even Be Called Sports In The First Place?
Counterstrike: Global Offensive: An extremely fast and reaction-based shooting game, revolving on split-second decisions and ‘twitch’ gaming. Counterstrike revolves around two opposing teams, one aiming to plant a bomb at a specific location on each map and the other who are aiming to eliminate them or defuse the bomb. There’s nothing seemingly new here – but the kicker is that once your character dies, you don’t come back to life to fight again until the round is over. This simple difference makes the game intensely tactical and punchy, with matches rattling along at a tremendous pace.
Playing the game professionally requires immense dexterity and on-your-feet tactical thinking. The risk of elimination forces competitors to play cautiously but decisively, switching up tactics as the number of players on the field decreases. The ability to buy different items and equipment for each combatant means that each player can change their loadout on the fly as the game progresses. But, as you can pick weapons up from fallen enemies, the more powerful your team becomes the bigger a risk you potentially pose to yourselves.
StarCraft 1 & 2: A grand-scale sci-fi strategy game and the father of eSports scene. Created by Blizzard Entertainment in 1998, the game has you control one of three alien armies and fight a competitor – building bases, training soldiers and aiming to destroy your opponents. The game was so immensely popular in Korea that it solidified the idea of eSports as a genre, with individuals still playing the original game online to this day and over $4m awarded as prize money to teams. Even the world of politics has been influenced by it, with the prospective South Korean presidential candidate Moon Jae-in releasing a StarCraft map in an attempt to bolster his polls.
Despite its age, StarCraft has persevered thanks to the pixel-perfect degree of balance in place between the three different factions and blistering speed with which decisions need to be processed and made. Top players make 300 actions per minute (clicks and button presses in the game) and simultaneously balance resource gathering, army growth and combat. It’s so demanding, many top professionals burn out due to R.S.I and the and inability to deal with stress and speed of matches; on average, aging out at 24.
Mobile Battle Arena (MOBA) Games: The closest approximation to fielding an eSports team in game, albeit with fantasy characters. Encompassing series such as League of Legends or DOTA 2, a MOBA sees two teams of characters fight across a map to destroy their opponent’s ‘monument’ at the other side of the map. But the heroes on each team each have unique abilities that break or bend the rules of the game, resulting in a unique matchup almost every time they play. With a vast range of equippable items, a vast number of playable characters and huge number of customisation options, the game is byzantine to the extreme but hugely rewarding to play and follow.
These types of game have persevered because they perfectly capture the drama that can happen at the best sporting events. Talent can trump tactics, a solid strategy can unseat even the highest ranked team and every decision made matters; producing compelling matches where the final result is rarely a foregone conclusion. Characters are also continuously tweaked and balanced to prevent them from being ‘overpowered’ and celebrity players are famous for playing characters or combinations – everyone will want to stop to watch UNiVeRsE (aka Saahil Arora) and the team he’s currently playing for, or groups like ‘Evil Geniuses’ or ‘Wings Gaming’ face off against each other.
Where Can I Bet?
If you’re interested in placing a punt, here are some of the top sites to try.
Pinnacle: One of the first bookies to fully embrace the e-sports scene, Pinnacle has dedicated a quarter of its site to coverage of eSports. Initially carrying a small series of games as a test for their viability, Pinnacle caught the sector as it ballooned in popularity. eSports soon become its seventh most popular market, ranking above golf and rugby! The site hit one million eSport bets in 2014 and five million in Feb 2017. It was also the first online betting company to run an eSports tournament, running the Pinnacle Pro-Am in 2014, which has gone from strength to strength ever since.
SkyBet: As late but enthusiastic adopters of the eSports scene, SkyBet offers punts on a range of forthcoming tournaments and event, focusing on games such as League of Legends, DOTA2, StarCraft and even old-guards like Street Fighter. The site tends to focus on bigger tournaments such as leagues in Turkey, Korea, and the forthcoming global championships. They also allow additional betting details, allowing match-up and map betting – this allows you to place a stake on the outcome on any of the series of games on the schedule.
What Should I Know About Before Placing A Punt?
Access is easy: The huge strength of eSports is that anyone can get involved, regardless of their skill level or current situation – playing a game is as simple as opening your desktop and starting a game. Many entry level games can be even be downloaded to your tablet and smart device and have ‘tutorial’ modes that help you get the rules down before releasing you online. Even the top-rated games are often free-to-play and they recoup their money from running tournaments or allowing players to buy cosmetic items for their characters.
Consider the barriers to entry: However, even with huge sums of money being ploughed into eSports by companies in effort to raise their profile, if you have never played games before it can be very difficult to get your head around the nuance of play. And, even if you’re a keen gamer, staying up-to-date with additions to the game or changes the ‘meta’ (the overall rules that state what the best tactics are in any given scenario) can be extremely challenging.
Build your knowledge: The rise of eSports has coincided with the YouTube generation and there are many pundits who have made a lucrative living out of giving opinion and analysis. Companies such as Red Bull also regularly sponsor teams and provide updates on their successes – checking out their sites and feeds will help you get a feel for the forms of top teams. eSports are also unique in that every second of the game is recorded and can be reviewed in-depth by fans and teams alike, allowing everyone to get a deeper understanding of key plays.