Heading to ICE, iGB is preparing you for the biggest trade show of 2024 with this new series covering the latest developments since the 2023 show.
The current status of the esports market will undoubtedly be a key topic of conversation at ICE 2024. We have all seen a rise in esports during the Corona crisis, with games such as Virtuals, Belarusian football, Armenian ping-pong proving to be a mainstay of live content alongside FIFA, Dota2 and League of Legends.
The initial surge two years ago never quite regained momentum and faded from the mainstream, with a sharp decline in 2023 and market stagnation at best.
So this year was all about the pros (Rivalry), the cons (Entain and Esports Entertainment Group) and a big battle for data (Bayes and Grid).
Esports: the downers before ICE 2024
Let’s start with the downers. Entain did a lot… and not a lot. No stranger to spending big, Entain arguably put a lot of eggs in one basket when it acquired Unikrn, the industry’s first dedicated esports operator in 2021.
Entain and Unikrn
With ambitious plans, Entain then relaunched the brand in December 2022 with the aim of global dominance.
Nothing has happened since then and less than 12 months after the relaunch, Entain appears to have put the brakes on those efforts.
In a recent statement to iGB, Entain says it will reduce direct-to-consumer operations within Unikrn.
“This is to ensure that our business is structured as effectively as possible and that we can best implement our strategy and growth plans,” says Entain. Conclusion: really interesting.
However, there might be some excitement along the way. In June, Entain acquired Tiidal Gaming NZ, owner of esports betting developer Sportsflare, for £7.9 million. Nothing has been announced since then, but they’re definitely worth keeping an eye on as there’s undoubtedly a plan in the works.
Esports Entertainment Group
Next up is Esports Entertainment Group (EEG), another provider that seems to have everything on black. In its Q1 2023 report released this week, the company reported a staggering 71.9% drop in revenue to $2.7 million, making for a dismal bottom line.
The company has apparently been in trouble since May 2022, when it admitted to having “doubts” that it could stay in business for another year.
But it took another year, and after its previous CEO, Grant Johnson, was fired, this year was all about the new CEO, Alex Igelman.
Like any courageous leader, he gave the company a radical overhaul over the course of 2023.
First and foremost was the sale of its Spanish gaming license for just under £1.0 million and the disposal of its Bethard business for £8.3 million.
Subsequently – and with a view to the e-sports content market – EEG acquired the e-sports content producer Drafted.gg in November.
Just like with the launch of EPSN BET, we believe we will one day see something similar with an esports-style focus, offering a fully closed entertainment platform that includes betting and content.
As the net loss widened despite significant cost savings, we have not seen any change to date. However, Igelman remains optimistic and we could see a rebound in 2024.
Esports: the upper before ICE 2024
About this year’s success story – the specialized e-sports betting provider Rivalry. Expected to be an important part of the ICE 2024 esports conferenceWe’ll be hearing a lot more about this brand in 2024.
This super cool brand has definitely picked up the slack on Entain and EEG and shot forward. That’s certainly the opinion of Pinnacle, which was one of the lead investors in its £5.9 million funding round in 2023.
The Toronto-based operator has exceeded all revenue expectations so far this year, thanks to its unique positioning in the market The Esports brand for all Gen Z and Millennial users out there.
Targeting this audience is clearly bearing fruit – 80% of customers say they are under 30 years old.
Targeting its Millennial and Gen-Z audiences with its “Down with the Kids” approach, the company’s campaigns are chock-full of internet sayings, memes, and sought-after influencers.
His move to the casino, with its mobile app Casino.exe, which launched in Ontario in Marchshould prove to be a strong diversification.
Given the “unique insights into betting behavior” of Generation Z, this seems like a very good idea.
Translated into plain language, they probably mean that Generation Z doesn’t have a lot of money to spend.
Esports: the data battle
Lastly comes the big fight at the back end. It’s all about data here and between the two well-known providers Bayes and Grid.
These are the only two providers on the B2B side that offer original source data. A bit like Genius Sports and Sportradar, but with esports.
So what’s the problem? In short: We have third parties who offer unofficial data to operators.
This is easy to offer – since esports tournaments like Blast or ESL (Esports League) are open source, you can simply register and offer data directly.
The demand for third-party data is clearly there as it is much cheaper for Tier 2 or Tier 3 operators who compete on very thin margins.
However, the use of this data is not legitimate and (most of the time) not legal in the eyes of the courts.
The legal battle continues, such as that between Bayes and Panda.
The market has yet to find a proper balance and the ongoing struggle to provide official data will undoubtedly continue.
The big question for this year and next year is the actual definition of esports data and who has the right to use it.
Until then, we can expect many more legal disputes – and probably a major obstacle to further market growth.
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