Once upon a time, video games were things that only school kids played, generally involving jumping a little moustached man into bricks. Interestingly enough, that little moustached man still exists, although he is now part of a multi million-dollar industry known across the globe. The game we’re talking about is Mario, and he isn’t the only one that has added a few zeroes to his value in the gaming sphere.
As video games have dramatically evolved in complexity and popularity, the revenue generated has headed into the stratosphere. The industry as a whole is now the biggest as far as entertainment is concerned. However, it is not the games themselves that are drawing the most attention. Instead, eSports, or multi-player video games played professionally for other’s entertainment, are where much of the attention is focused. In addition, the eSports gambling industry is rapidly expanding, only now starting to fully show its potential.
An Industry on the Rise
The eSports market is currently estimated to be worth around $900 million. An impressive number, and one that is set to increase, year-on-year. So quickly did the market grow that many were taken by surprise, scrambling to get abreast of the situation and try to catch some of the enormous amounts of money being thrown around.
Nevertheless, logic dictates that any competitive industry is going to have its fair share of controversy, intentionally or not. In this case, it was illegal gambling. No, we’re not talking about playing online Roulette or anything of that sort. Instead, the wagering kicked off in way that quickly raised eyebrows. The game Counter Strike: Global Offensive, in 2013, added skins to its gaming options. Skins are cosmetic items that could be earned in the game, and used to individualise game characters, which is highly desirable for game players.
Entirely cosmetic in nature, the skin system worked to dramatically increase engagement from players, but also swiftly sparked an illegal, real money gambling situation.
Skin Gambling and Controversy
The skins introduced to Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and the equally popular DOTA 2, gained enormous value, with some commanding outrageous prices due to rarity. It was not long before the skins could be sold and won in wagers at third party websites not associated with the game developers, Valve.
The situation came to a climax in 2016, as three websites that allowed visitors to gamble for skins were served with a lawsuit. Valve was likewise implicated in a lawsuit, directly accused of creating a market where minors were encouraged to engage in gambling. In response, Valve served cease and desists to multiple websites, and made clear it had no affiliation with any website partaking in illegal gambling.
Licensed And Legal eSports Gambling
Meanwhile, online bookmakers soon caught on to the hype around eSports and eSports tournaments. The sponsored leagues were quickly commanding championship prizes that topped $1 million, massively increasing the attention tournaments drew, and pushing regular viewer numbers much higher than ever before. Today the biggest prize for a tournament has hit a record $24 million.
Not surprisingly, licensed, legal gambling and wagering options were soon offered. First only by a handful of bookmakers on certain important games, the betting options now often occupy a special section of a bookmaker’s site, catering specifically to those interested in eSports betting.
Both interest in eSports and wagering on tournaments is set to break new ground in the coming years, with some already predicting that the industry may at some point begin to rival that of traditional sports. Although that eventuality is yet only speculation, if trends continue, it may just become a reality. Only time will tell if digital sports becomes the new dominant form of entertainment in the sporting world.