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Seeking stability in virtual sports
Frank Wenzig first joined Sportradar back in October 2010 as associate director of product management when the company’s gaming solutions were first born. Frank assisted an initial team of 12 in the unit’s main base in Bremen, developing Sportradar’s virtual sports meets sports betting strategy that exists today.
In the face of world-wide clampdowns on mass public events, the first half of 2020 looks to be a challenging time for sportsbooks. So, when the lights go out and stadiums are empty, how can operators ensure stable and continuous revenue?
While live sports cancellations are understandably a blow to the industry, digital advancements and increased demand for new ways to play drives innovation, and this has certainly historically been the case for virtual sports.
In a recent webinar sponsored by Betradar, the company’s managing director of gaming, Frank Wenzig, discussed the evolution of virtual sports betting, arguing that the vertical is more than just a supplement when live sports are in downtime.
Back to basics
Opening the presentation, Wenzig reflects upon his first ICE in 2010, when Betradar had just started working on virtual sports: “I had to pull customers to our booth and explain what virtual sports are and what they’re good for - at this time there was no awareness.”
Since then, he says, the audience has grown from being a niche market to a multi-million pound business.
Based on Betradar’s experience working on this vertical, Wenzig outlines several things the industry needs to understand in order to capitalise on virtual sports, including the target group, the incremental revenue, the scope and the risk.
To understand the target group, Wenzig says, you first must understand the nature of virtual sports. In his opinion, for the igaming industry, virtual sports should be more realistic than fanciful, and geared towards real life betting - an approach Betradar has taken to strongly when delivering its virtual sports offerings.
“Our target group are the punters. In a perfect world scenario, they wouldn’t even notice whether the game is real or virtual. With improving technology, the line between real and virtual is becoming more and more blurry.”
Wenzig also explained that when starting its business in the sector, Betradar operated “based on the assumption that a punter would find virtual sports most appealing when it aligned with live sports betting preferences - i.e., live football punters will prefer virtual football over, say, virtual tennis.
“This proof of concept is now underpinned by the data collected by the company across almost two decades.”
The next two key attributes of virtual sports are the incremental revenue and the scalability, with Wenzig highlighting the ability to tailor virtual sports products to customer demands, in terms of league systems, customisation and localisation, for instance.
One of the final points Wenzig makes is the ease with which virtual sports can be integrated and handled: “The product switches on and earns money - there is no risk management or complicated maintenance necessary to ensure it is fully established.”
Speaking after the webinar, Wenzig elaborated further on his vision of the future of virtual sports: “This year we are continuing to witness just how much unanticipated events can have on the industry. I believe this will continue to make people realise that virtual sports are more than just a niche, supplementary product as part of a sportsbook.”
Virtual sports have come a long way to get to this point, but Wenzig says there are still plenty of areas for growth. For Betradar, that means extending their gaming solutions portfolio beyond traditional sports, developing offerings across desktop, mobile, retail and terminal, and expanding to new markets.
“With the ongoing demand and advancements in technology, together with potential new betting markets such as Asia, virtual sports will continue to prove just how crucial they are in enabling operators to maintain engagement and commercial viability outside of a real-life sports offering.
Anticipating this growth, Wenzig says Betradar will develop further on its offerings: “This is why we continue to enhance our gaming solutions portfolio with sports and tournaments such as the Euros and Baseball added recently, and even more on the horizon, including cricket.”