Roughly speaking, virtual sport is a computer simulation of real-life sports. It considers most real sports-related data, such as the rules of the game, player features, human physique, etc. That means that all the results of matches are calculated by a computer, mostly relying on collected sports statistics that serve as input data that defines the probabilities of various events. At the same time, players who bet on virtual sports events have the opportunity to make all the same types of bets as on regular offline sports.
Lately, in 2020, many things in the industry have changed as the COVID-19 pandemic became a big influence on the lives of all people across the world. Let’s find out how virtual sports managed to replace real-life sports events for many bettors in the time of a pandemic and how it changed the global iGaming industry.
Virtual sports in a pandemic
Before the COVID-19, virtual sports was already a very popular kind of digital entertainment - its share of income in bookmakers was ⅕ of the total amount of bets excepted. In the minds of many players, these types of games were just a way to make some additional bets between real sporting events, since it was possible to follow online competitions at any convenient time of the day and even any minute. This is what served as one of the major reasons for its incredible rise to popularity in 2021.
As it is easy to guess, the global pandemic has made its own adjustments to the sports world. Many games and matches were postponed, sporting events were canceled, and because of the empty stands, the real sport began to lose its grip due to many limitations that were implemented to combat the pandemic. In addition, it became more and more difficult to predict the results of matches, since an important team member could not enter the field due to quarantine restrictions without any prior notice, or the boxing match was canceled due to a sportsman’s positive test. Virtual sports, on the other hand, could guarantee that the game that the player currently sees on his screen would result in some score for sure.
Technological advances have also been a crucial factor in the popularization of virtual sports. Modern graphics and improved artificial intelligence have made games not only more spectacular but also more realistic. You can already see how experts in pre-match analytics appeal to virtual simulations, trying to calculate in advance how the events of the game will go. In addition, intensive and consistent development of VR helmets allows us to hope that soon the matches that a person cannot attend in real life will become available in the online world with the help of the latest VR gear.
Virtual sports in 2021
The temporary crisis of the sports sphere attracted the attention of not only betting fans, but also the organizers and top managers of various tournaments. The postponements and cancelations of the largest NBA, NHL, UEFA and MLS tournaments seriously hit the pockets of many organizations, some advertisers demanded a return of part of their investments, and many contracts for broadcasts were canceled. As a consequence, many people have lost their jobs and the industry went into a temporary state of decline.
In just a year, more than 900 tennis tournaments have been postponed. And it is only a single sport we are talking about! Formula 1 refused to hold the Grand Prix tournament, and the National Basketball Association ended the season ahead of schedule and was forced to change the playoff system.
Companies had to cope not only with the current losses but also to do everything possible to prevent the crisis from happening again. That is why some large organizations have shifted their vector towards virtual sports.
Hawthorne Race Course and Palm Beach Kennel Club from the United States has signed cooperation agreements with software developers ordering a virtual competition system. The traditional British annual Grand National horse race will also be broadcast exclusively in virtual format.
The benefits of virtual sports, at least as an alternative option for players, were employed by Betradar, which launched the virtual Asian Cup back in 2019. This allowed the company not only to avoid the pandemic crisis but also to take a leading place in the niche due to a huge portfolio and many types of virtual sports it can offer to its spectators.
Betting on virtual sports
Summing up the last two years in the context of the global pandemic, it is worth noting that the rapid growth of virtual sports as a niche is not going to slow down sometimes soon. In regions such as Italy, virtual sports market share has already exceeded 20% of the total market and continues to grow. No one can say for sure when classic sports will fully recover from the impact of the pandemic, while the virtual sports sphere already stands out. Well, there are several good reasons for it to be so successful these days:
- Speed. The modern generation of people prefer a faster lifestyle, that’s why they prefer making choices here and now. Sports competitions, that last minutes instead of hours, allow you to enjoy the game as quickly as possible.
- Transparency. No games are fixed, referees' mistakes and other human-factor-related situations are excluded.
- Accuracy. Virtual sports are not affected by random factors that can change the outcome of the game.
- Availability. 24/7 access to any sport, match, or tournament.
As you can see, nowadays virtual sports are becoming almost as popular as real-life sports due to so many advantages that they can bring to the table. A great advance in technology and the acceleration of our lifestyles were important factors in the establishment of virtual sports as a new big phenomenon on the betting market. Classic sports are still more spectacular and, probably, more familiar to casual spectators. However, virtual sports are not here to replace, but rather to supplement the spectators’ passion for sports. And as far as we can judge, they are succeeding in it lately becoming an essential entertainment of millions of sports fans all over the world.