PandaScore is at the forefront of esports data, and whether you are a casual esports fan or a punter, you will find their solutions quite useful. We had the chance to talk to PandaScore CEO Flavien Guillocheau, who helped us understand live versus pre-match markets in esports betting and what some of the challenges ahead of the live segment are.
A notable trend is a shift towards live esports betting, which is understandable as it “captures the energy of the moment,” as Flavin himself said. In-play esports betting markets do have potential, but they also face many challenges.
Flavien outlines one of the issues as such: “There isn't a provider out there creating a high-quality live betting experience in esports, especially when compared to sports.” Another issue is the delay in how quickly the information is displayed to punters. Latency is not a problem, argues Flavien, and PandaScore is actively promoting a fairer in-play betting environment for esports fans. Read the full conversation with him below.
Q: Can we begin by telling us what the interest in pre-game and live markets in esports betting is at current rates?
At the moment, it's roughly a 60-40 split between living and pre-match. It really depends on the game, competition, and teams present and can sometimes be closer to 50-50. There are also factors such as regional gambling laws which can impact this – in Australia, and it's harder for punters to bet on a live match than in other countries.
“Betting during a match captures the energy of the moment and is generally a more exciting experience.”
The noteworthy trend, however, is live is experiencing very strong growth and taking a greater share of all esports betting activity. With this comes the growth of esports betting more broadly, which has established itself as a key 5th vertical, and we expect it to be bigger and bigger, challenging the likes of tennis and basketball.
Q: Why is in-play betting in esports growing at the pace it is today? Isn't it riskier and more challenging to understand in general?
It's for the same reason you find in sports, and live betting is what punters want. Betting during a match captures the energy of the moment and is generally a more exciting experience.
There's a lot of room for improvement, though. Live esports betting probably isn't growing at the pace it could due to the lack of esports products currently available and the capacity of some products on the market at the moment.
Uptime is a big challenge for some providers. The number of markets and types of markets can often be quite limited and not necessarily specific to esports. Markets that are catered to particular games and certain situations in a match allows punters to apply their own knowledge and bet in a more engaging fashion. ‘Correct Round Score' in Counter-Strike, ‘Team to slay First Drake' in League of Legends, and ‘Most Roshans 2-way' in Dota 2 are just a few examples.
These kinds of betting options are more challenging because they demand more data, a better understanding of the esports scene, and combining the two in a timely fashion – something that will prove difficult for non-specialists.
Q: Are there specifics of what esports make a better in-play option in general?
Just like in sports: it's more engaging, there are more betting opportunities, and it's more thrilling with a shorter feedback loop between bet placement and outcome.
Although in esports, fans are used to watching online matches and generally have a second screen which means that live betting is much more relevant. At the moment, there really isn't a provider out there creating a high-quality live betting experience in esports, especially when compared to sports.
One engagement method that's unique to esports is offering more immersive experiences by embedding featured bets or bet suggestions within a stream as the game unfolds. This can't be done in sports as viewers are mainly watching on TV, but the winning formula for this kind of streaming enhancement hasn't been found yet.
Q: One thing that consumers value today is speed. In traditional sports betting, we sometimes see 20-second delays before odds are updated. Is this acceptable to sports fans, or are they driving significant changes in latency and the speed at which odds and information are displayed?
If odds updates are on a 20-second delay, it's a good thing for the sports fans but not for the bookmaker. As such, latency is crucial for bookmakers and taken incredibly seriously by us as providers as well.
“At the moment, there really isn't a provider out there creating a high-quality live betting experience in esports, especially when compared to sports.”
The problem and difference in esports is not latency but delay.
Latency is the processing time of one provider to create data, with the associated lag from relying on humans to perform this task, transform that data into odds and provide it to customers.
Delay is when tournament organizers or data providers are delaying the video feed, meaning punters are betting on a delayed stream—essentially betting on something that has already happened.
This is a huge problem in esports betting that all stakeholders in this industry need to collaborate on because this is not an equitable or fair betting experience for the punter.
Q: How are PandaScore's solutions helping shape up a more worthwhile in-play esports betting experience?
Live betting is one of our core focuses as a company. We apply a significant amount of our research and development resources into improving live betting, launching new live markets, and rolling out quality live betting for as many games as possible.
Having AI as the focal point of our company means that product innovation comes naturally.
We're currently working on launching live player markets such as ‘Total Kills Over/Under' for select players, with plans for all players.
Through consistent optimization, we have the best uptime in the industry, both in the equivalent markets offered by our competitors and across a greater number of markets. Our focus on having a high uptime that successfully balances betting opportunities and risk, we can offer more opportunities and more engagement but not to the detriment of controlling risk.
We're also advocating for more equitable live betting for punters in the industry. Due to the current working relationship between tournament organizers, official data feeds, and bookmakers, there is a notable stream delay which means that punters are live betting on events after they happen. This doesn't make for a fair betting experience for the end-user, and improving this can unlock a lot of opportunities and growth for all industry stakeholders.
Q: Are there still challenges to the full adoption of in-play markets. For example, are sportsbooks frightful that they cannot yet match dedicated esports bettors' prowess and deeper understanding of esports, which was surely the case in the pre-game market a few years back?
There are clearly a few obstacles like stream delay, as I mentioned, but in general, esports punters are similar to sports bettors in terms of risk management and betting habits.
Though live is much more about understanding the game and how the game evolves, while this might be the case in sports, too, the stakes and knowledge requirements in esports are much higher. Traders need to follow changes made to the game as it is patched over time, understanding what the current trends and metagames are, following pro player and coach activity, and more.
“Due to the current working relationship between tournament organizers, official data feeds, and bookmakers, there is a notable stream delay which means that punters are live betting on events after they happen.”
Some of this burden is taken off the traders through the incorporation of AI into this process, as it allows our team at PandaScore to iterate our models very quickly and equip our traders with the most up-to-date information as quickly as possible. Sportsbooks wary of these challenges should look to work with esports experts so they can integrate and ramp up the performance of their esports vertical efficiently.
Q: As in-play markets enjoy quicker adoption, what significant changes to the core offer do you think would follow?
The next step for in-play markets is going to be their relationship with the streaming experience, especially in terms of delay. But also that bets are becoming more fast-paced and the opportunity for micro betting in games like CSGO with ‘Current Round' or ‘Next Round' related markets.
To unlock the enormous potential of live, in-play markets in esports, the industry needs to tackle the challenge of stream delay so that punters can experience the same engagement and closeness to the action that they feel in sports.