Gaming and iGaming industries exploded in 2020 as the pandemic has only reinforced the new edge entertainment trend. In times of massive uncertainty, the world turned to simulate reality games as a new way to connect and unwind.
According to Statista, today there are already more than 2.7 billion video gamers worldwide. The entire video gaming market is expected to be worth over $200 bln by 2023. As to iGaming, around 1.6 billion people gamble throughout the year, while the global online gambling market is anticipated to be valued at more than $92.9 bln by 2023.
Here we’re going to explore the impact of the pandemic in these domains, uncover new trends within the booming industries and learn what to expect for 2021.
Changes in the industries in the COVID times
Lloyd Richman, CEO of iBet Digital, thinks that since COVID-19 first hit, a lot of sportsbook bettors, who used to bet on a daily basis, started to look out for new things to bet on. “For sure, they were very unhappy, because almost all sports competitions had stopped at that moment. And this is why virtual sports have uplifted, as well as eSports”.
Lloyd briefly explained the difference between virtual sports and eSports.
“Virtual sports are predetermined or pre-recorded games architected by computer software. It’s very much a virtual video, that’s played out and then people can bet on that in real-time. Whereas in eSports people are competing against each other playing the likes of Counter-Strike or FIFA whether they’re playing individually or as teams. It’s streamed in real-time and viewers are able to bet on it the same way they do with sports.”
Will Mercer, venture director at Zag, a founder and CEO of Umaya Village, pointed out his favourite stats about eSports: “The entire of tennis as a sport can only support 300 full-time professional players, whereas League of Legends, which is just one of the many eSports, can support a thousand.”
At the end of 2020 Esports entertainment group acquired Lucky Dino for $30 mln, an online casino operator with its own proprietary casino platform. “You’ll probably see a lot more eSports levelling up with Sportsbook in 2021 because there’s a lot of money in that business”, says Lloyd Richman.
Poker also saw huge growth, in spite of the fact that just a few years ago, it was considered as a dying out product. Today poker products started to boom again across the whole industry. “People had time to kill while being stuck at home, sleeping patterns were changed and they were able to invest into things like 6-hours tournaments as opposed to quick Sit & Go games”, says Richman.
But all of this might change very quickly. “When poker was huge five years ago, eSports wasn’t really around. But today we’re seeing that virtual games are getting pushed a lot more. The same appeals to live casinos that boomed in the last few years. But all of it probably will go back into decline again, because the real sports are back”, noticed Lloyd.
From a technological perspective, there are several trends just coupling all together in an interesting way.
There’s a tremendous growth of the social media component in gaming. It became really important both in games and in-gaming infrastructure like Discord. “Gaming acts as the niche to hanging out and talking in comfort with your own communities and friends”, adds Vlad Beck, founder of Black Snow Games & co-founder of Sigma Software Group.
At the same time streaming has shown enormous growth compared to pre-pandemic. Twitch jumped from 9 billion hours watched in 2019 all the way to 17 billion in 2020. This is also accompanied by 5G getting up and running.
Casino in GTA V and the future of in-game experience
GTA V has sold over 110 million copies, making it one of the best-selling video games of all time, generating over $6 bln worth of revenue. In 2019 Rockstar released its Diamond Casino & Resort update, which lets players use real money to play its games. The casino’s chips can be purchased with in-game currency at a $1 to 1 chip ratio.
Richman believes that the full-time merging between online computer games and online casinos is happening right now. “It’s been happening, but very slowly. Rockstar released their Casino update six years after they released the original game.”
“In that week after they released the casino update, it was the most anticipated downloadable content (DLC) ever across PlayStation. They had more players playing GTA than they had in the previous six years”, emphasised Lloyd.
The audience wants to come on and play slots, walk up to blackjack people and watch virtual sports on horse racing. Rockstar merged into the casino and into gambling via creating slot games on an RPG computer game level. This is the accelerated change in gaming, and in the next 10-15 years merges like this are going to happen on a regular basis.