Published: 14 October, 2020

Crossing over to esports

SickOdds co-founder Tom Wade speaks at Affi liateCon, on the opportunity that has arisen for esports during the current pandemic, and what it could mean going forward

In every crisis there’s an opportunity. The coronavirus outbreak has had a devastating impact all over the world and on our daily lives, with many businesses in almost every industry feeling the pinch.

That’s no different with the gambling industry, as most major sport remains suspended. However, there are still positives that can emerge from the pandemic, and esports is one of them.

Esports betting is a vertical in the industry that was rising in popularity before the outbreak. But now, it’s well on its way to establishing itself as a major offering for operators and affiliates, which is set to continue long after we come out the other side of virus lockdowns.


“The last couple of months have been the strangest but most exciting we’ve been through as an esports affiliate,” admits Tom Wade, co-founder of esports odds comparison platform, SickOdds, when speaking at May’s AffiliateCon Virtually Live.

Popularity with esports has increased tenfold during the pandemic. According to EveryMatrix data, there has been a 40-times growth in esports betting from March, 80% of which from titles Fifa and NBA2K. The same data also states that 10% of real sports players are now esports bettors, with a turnover on esports higher than 33%.

During that period, SickOdds has seen its traffic grow by more than 200% for so-called cross-over titles, such as Fifa, NBA2K and F1, which act as platforms for traditional sports bettors to make the move from live sports to esports.

The interest levels of esports has also spiked on social media, but what’s come as a surprise to Wade, is how adaptable traditional sports fans have been to taking the leap with esports.

“When we started in 2016, we positioned ourselves on an esports focused brand on the basis esports fans are not the same as traditional sports fans, and the user experience and style of messaging does need to reflect this,” explains Wade. “But what we’ve seen over the past couple of months is that this style is adaptable for traditional sports fans as well.”

The fact customers are making the switch from live sports to esports bodes well for both the vertical itself, and affiliates who are desperately looking for other markets, with a lack of sports leading to a lull in traffic and revenue. Wade advised fellow affiliates to “ensure your affiliate network has enough diversity to ensure it can be sustained. Slots, virtual sports and, most importantly to us, esports have flourished during this time.”

Yet the more interest in esports and the more it’s offered by operators reinforces how it’s now being viewed as an “antidote to the deficiency of sports betting”, as Wade puts it. That means sportsbooks are putting in more investment on marketing just to further boost esports’ footing.

And there are elements of esports that make it comparable to live sports, which is another factor in its favour. Just like live sports, there are real teams you can follow, real players with real skills, such as hand eye co-ordination and reaction speed, with a lot of strategy and different playing styles noticeable to the keen eye.

It’s also a very adaptable market in terms of how it has transitioned from offline to online, with broadcasting rights available on Youtube and Twitch so fans can follow 24/7 free of charge.

But will the new audience stick with esports once live sports are back in full flow? Wade thinks so. He expects esports to continue thriving after the pandemic, estimating 30-40% of the new audience will be retained.

“Even if we can retain 10 to 20% of those players, which is a pessimistic view, it would still be a massive influx into the esports market, and we’d see a big benefit to the underlying industry,” Wade added.

There’s certainly no guarantees. But right now it’s a great time for esports, with the new interest and buzz surrounding it.

“At the moment you’ve got a hell of a lot of people who are looking at esports; eyes are certainly on it,” Wade concludes. “We hope people continue to immerse themselves with the new and exciting market.”