Affiliate Spotlight shines a light on the latest affiliate sites from around the world.
This week we chat with Nick Pateman, Co-founder of esports-focused betting site Sickodds, who introduces his latest project and discusses how affiliates can tap into the buoyant esports industry.
AffiliateINSIDER: Can you begin by introducing SickOdds and explain its relevance to both an affiliate and an esports audience.
Nick Pateman: My co-founder, Tom Wade and I have been playing video games since the late 1990s when competitive gaming was done over a 56K modem and a well-funded tournament meant free pizza at lunch. In the years since then, I established a business in the igaming affiliate space in London and Tom founded a development agency up in Leeds.
It wasn’t until 2016 that our paths crossed over some mutual client work, with a decision a few months later to mix our love of competitive gaming – now called esports – with our expertise in igaming, marketing and development.
This led to the creation of our self-funded startup, SickOdds.com, which is the culmination of our obsession with the esports industry and the excitement of being one of the first to enter what we believe will be the fastest growing niche in the igaming industry.
AI: Esports as an industry is clearly growing at an exponential rate. How can affiliate marketers tap into this?
NP: There are so many opportunities in the esports market that I think affiliates shouldn’t fret too much about where to start but just to start. For new brands there are still a huge number of domain names available, whether it’s a name that focuses on a particular esport or one that targets the market more broadly.
From a content point of view, it really helps if you take a genuine interest in the sector. There are a huge number of esports to choose from, whether it’s a first-person shooter like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive of a “multiplayer online battle arena” (MOBA) like League of Legends or Dota 2, finding one that is of interest is key to understanding this new industry.
The esports community is passionate and tight-knit, those working in the market would much sooner work with a business that is in tune with the culture and having that understanding will be a massive benefit to the hiring process.
Those who feel it’s already too late to start in the market will be pleased to know that new esports are emerging all the time. Industry giant, Valve, is due to launch their new trading card game, Artifact, at the end of November 2018 with a $1,000,000 prize tournament kicking off in Q1 2019. Very few betting affiliates have tapped into this potential opportunity and Artifact is just one example of many.
AI: How does an esports audience differ from that of igaming?
NP: There is definitely an overlap between traditional sports viewers and those in esports, however this overlap is the exception and not the rule. The esports audience is predominantly young (26% aged between 18 and 24 in the US) and the vast majority are not from a betting background.
Audience interests, location and culture also vary enormously between games – for example, fans of the real-time strategy game, StarCraft 2, share few similarities with fans of Counter-Strike, not least that the audience of the former is largely based in South-East Asia.
While esports viewers do not have an igaming background, there is definitely a massive interest in another form of betting that is unique to the video game playerbase. Many of the major esports include a “loot box” system, allowing players to win items for their in-game character by paying a small amount to open one of these boxes.
Game developers will insist that these loot boxes do not constitute gambling, however the similarity that this activity has with the likes of roulette is stark. In Counter-Strike alone, loot boxes are estimated to have generated revenues of over $300M.
For this reason, gamers are becoming more and more attuned to betting and this no doubt has a cross-over into traditional forms of betting including sports betting.
AI: What are some of the issues with betting on esports? And how can they be remedied?
NP: Most of the issues currently facing esports today are the result of an immature market and so you would expect these issues to be resolved naturally over time as the industry becomes more established. That said, the market is not without major issues when it comes to betting.
The most obvious is the age of the audience. A game like Fortnite – which is beginning to build a vibrant competitive scene with major prizepools – has a fanbase with a significant portion under the age of 18. While Fortnite is an extreme example, esports in general are weighted towards a younger audience and so the need to prevent underage gamblers from betting on esports is more of a challenge than ever.
Other issues for esports betting include match rigging, cheating and even doping. The Overwatch League currently allows its players to take the amphetamine, adderall, while other esports actively test and ban players found using it. Players have also been caught cheating at major tournaments, using hacks to improve aim or see through walls. South-East Asia has been most affected by this, along with a spate of rigged matches which have raised serious concerns from esports communities in the region and around the world.
Bookmakers are also having a hard time keeping up. Unlike traditional sports, it is not unheard of for a game developer to drastically change the game’s mechanics. Team rosters can also change rapidly and unexpectedly – in the lead up to the FACEIT Major in London earlier this year, a player from the team Space Soldiers Tweeted that they were unable to make the tournament due to visa issues. This forced the team’s coach to step in and play, massively harming their chance of winning and leaving many bookmakers caught off guard
These problems are being resolved through the likes of player unions, governing bodies and further investment in the space. As the industry grows and matures, we expect these problems will be addressed in full but in the meantime we are continuing to stay vigilant in preventing access for underage players.
AI: Finally, what are your projections for the next twelve months for SickOdds?
NP: Our main goal is to keep up with the speed at which this industry is growing; that translates to an aggressive content expansion strategy and a focus on user experience and data availability.
We are working with bookmakers to provide our users with real-time odds across multiple esports as well as developing a crowd-sourced tipster section to the site to add real value to our followers and maintain our position as a leading esports affiliate.