The digital age has heralded the dawn of several exciting industries, with iGaming and eSports arguably providing the best and most lucrative examples.
The former is now worth a staggering £5.3 billion in the UK alone, for example, while sites such as bestcasinosites.net now offer customers direct access to the best and most reputable online gambling websites in the UK.
Since 2016, there has also been a significant increase in eSports viewers across the globe, with the market gripped by double-digit growth and an audience of around 385 million by the end of 2018.
While online gambling has recently experienced a slight decline in its total gross gambling yield, and continues to face a series of impactful legislative decisions (such as the credit card ban), eSports participation and viewing figures continue to grow from strength to strength. We'll address this below while asking what the future holds in store for this marketplace.
A Quick Peek at the eSports Marketplace
While the annual growth rate of eSports has fluctuated over the course of the last four years, it has never dropped below 13.8% during this period.
By the end of 2019, the total viewing audience had also increased from an estimated 385 million to 454 million, betraying annual market growth of 15.1% for that period.
This trend is expected to continue for the near-term too, with the eSports marketplace expected to grow at a 9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2019 and 2023.
This will see a significant rise in the number of casual viewers (which may peak at 307 million by 2021), while the total audience including enthusiasts will reach an impressive 557 million during the same period.
By the end of 2023, the global eSports audience is expected to reach 646 million, meaning that will have almost doubled in size in just six years.
This dramatic and exponential growth has continued to have a dramatic impact on the industry, leading to a significant increase in the level of investment from various stakeholders and key players in the online gambling industry.
This has been borne out by a recent investment drive involving Midnite, the London-based eSports betting startup and the same team behind daily fantasy football app Dribble. More specifically, Midnite has raised just over $2.5 million (£1.9 million) in funding from a number of strategic investors, with the gaming-focused venture firm Makers Fund at the head of this list.
However, unnamed founders and executives from iGaming brands including GVC and Betfair have also contributed significantly to the fund previously, bringing to total investment in the 2016-founded company to an estimated $4.5 million (£3.4 million).
In addition to the rising global audience, this increased investment is also being driven by the forecasts for sustained year-on-year growth, along with the fact that wagering on eSports is expected to exceed a staggering $12 billion (£9.2 billion) by Q4 2020.
Those in the gambling industry have good reason for keeping a foot in the eSports industry door. This market has incredible potential for online gambling and eSports betting. In 2018, $7billion were wagered on eSports and this industry keeps getting bigger.
Sponsorship is also expected to increase exponentially over the course of the next four years, as the market becomes increasingly lucrative and inches ever closer towards the consumer mainstream.
What About the Future? What Does it Hold for the eSports Market?
While the size of the market and the opportunity may be huge, however, the long-term status and the positioning of the market remains relatively unclear.
For example, the vast majority of online sports betting sites continue to view eSports as just another vertical in a fast-growing market, despite the unique nature of this discipline and fact that viewers represent an entirely new consumer demographic.
In this respect, entities such as Midnite are looking to establish themselves as an entertainment platform, and one that combines live viewing and creative betting markets to create a uniquely immersive experience.
This taps into one of the key trends that continues to underpin the virtual sports betting market, where a rising percentage of sports audiences wager in-play and on a more frequent basis.
An estimated 97.4% of horse racing fans bet regularly, for example, while the corresponding number for boxing fans is estimated at 86.4%.
So, in addition to being the only eSports startup that currently accepts players in the UK and holds an official betting license for these shores, it is also attempting to shape the future of the marketplace by combining real-time viewing and wagering in a single platform.
The Last Word – Why We're Only at the Beginning of eSports Growth
In this respect, Midnite is playing a critical role in helping to popularise eSports across the globe, by ensuring that it has a unique niche and identifying ways of capitalising on its dynamic nature and incredibly fast-paced action.
This, combined with the unique range of betting markets available through eSports betting, will help platforms to target new audiences effectively and afford the discipline the showcase it deserves as it continues to grow.
The latest development will also help to marginalise rogue operators, who currently provide a disproportionate amount of betting opportunities in an immature and largely unregulated marketplace.