Online Casinos Welcome eSports Into Their Offering

Thinking back to when you were a teenager, playing Street Fighter II, Call of Duty or FIFA on your console or computer of choice, would you ever have dreamed that one day you could bid to win championship prizes by playing those games you loved in front of thousands of people? Such has been the growth of ESports that this is precisely the situation we find ourselves in. And with the ESports industry continuing to grow year-on-year this is no longer a trend. This is a movement.

Street Fighter 2 Slot from NetEnt

But could there be a danger that ESports will overtake online slots play in terms of popularity? Will gamers stop playing top slots and casino games as they seek “real” thrills in the form of E-Sports, played live against other players? There are plenty of reasons to think this won’t be the case. Continued innovations in online slots breathe fresh life into our gaming habits on a daily basis, while modern smartphone technology and accessibility are ideal for playing slots. But that doesn’t mean that E-Sports will not be welcomed into the iGaming family.

ESports Growth

Since 2016 the growth of ESports has been nothing short of staggering. From a viewership of around 335million people in 2017 to an expected viewership of 557million by 2021, E-Sports will see an increase in popularity of 66% in just four years. To put that into revenue terms, the continued growth of ESports could translate into revenue of $15billion by  the end of 2020. While ESports has some way to go to catch up with the 3.5billion people who watched the 2018 FIFA World Cup final, as technology and games improve there is no reason why more than a billion people won’t be part of the ESports audience by the middle of this decade. With this growth in mind it is no surprise that online casinos and betting operators are welcoming ESports into their games catalogues, as much as players are welcoming ESports into their viewing and betting choices.

ESports Versus Virtual Sports

Anyone who hasn’t played Virtual Sports might be wondering what the difference is between Virtual Sports and ESports. Pioneers of Virtual Sports, Leap Gaming, have a portfolio of top virtual games like Instant Football and Virtual Races that allow gamers to place bets on virtual sporting events. These games use complex algorithms to play out virtual sporting events. Instant Football, for example, shows a mini highlights package of two top European teams playing each other (the option of quick play also exists which just displays the results), which play out like games of FIFA20 from EA Sports. Players place pre-match or half-time bets based on the outcomes of the games and earn payouts depending on their results.

Photo: EA Sports

ESports, rather than playing out like a game of FIFA, are real players playing FIFA live online. The Premier League arranged two FIFA tournaments of real football stars playing each other in ePremier League FIFA tournaments, battling each other on FIFA20 in cup format. FIFA20 and NBA2k are the two most popular sports simulations, but gamers also play and watch classic games. The most popular games that form ESports tournaments are League of Legends, CS:GO (Counter Strike Global Offensive) and DOTA-2, while Overwatch, PUBG (PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds) and Rocket League are other popular games for iGamers to play and enthusiasts to watch and bet on. Players take part in major tournaments that are broadcast online, and while these competitions can be played out in front of crowds they can also be played remotely – just like online slots.

Why ESports Won’t Replace Online Slots

Even with the continued growth of ESports, there is no reason to believe that they threaten the popularity of online slots and casino games. E-Sports are welcome additions to the iGaming family, but the recent innovations in online slots – with particular reference to mobile slots play – and continued increase in slots player numbers mean that there can be no doubt that slots are here to stay. A perfect example of such innovations is BTG’s Megaways™ game engine, used to such good effect to revamp classic slots, as in Rainbow Riches Megaways or Return of Kong Megaways.

Why won’t slots be overtaken by E-Sports? First of all, ESports are very different. They involve players or teams playing live against each other. As such they have to be scheduled in and played – just as regular sports do. Bookmakers and online casino houses have seen a rise in revenue from E-Sports in 2020, but they have also seen rises in gamers playing online slots and casino games. These games can be played any time and anywhere, making them much more flexible and accessible than E-sports. Even with advances in smartphone technology, ESports are much more accessible via tablets, laptops and smart TVs, whereas online slots and casino games don’t lose any playability on mobile.

Online Slots and ESports: A Future Together

While the rise of ESports has certainly been meteoric, there can be little doubt that its popularity won’t harm the growth and release of online slots and casino games. Microgaming alone released 11 new slots and instant games in April 2020, either through its own development arm or in partnership with other independent studios that release games under the Microgaming umbrella. This year’s ICE Expo in London saw record turnout, with a bumper year predicted once again for iGaming revenue. This year, for the first time ever, ICE introduced an Esports Arena, in which eight of the world’s best teams battled out a CS:GO tournament. The prize pool was a cool $250,000 and took place on a custom built stage, all the proof needed that ESports are here to stay.

Such tournaments and prizes are as alluring as landing a major jackpot across a progressive jackpot slots series. Online casinos the world over, including here at Casino Kings, regularly stage slots tournaments for players to top leaderboards and win prizes. For gamers across the globe ESports provide not only potential prize money but also the chance to enjoy playing the games they love. In this way, E-Sports and online slots will always be part of the same family.