Virtual sports have been around at least since Atari invented the game of Pong was in 1972. If you didn’t realize Pong was a virtual sport now you do. It is based on table tennis (you know – ping pong).
And if you’ve never lost a bet on a Pong or table tennis game then you’re probably not a real sports bettor. Many a Pong game decided the fate of empires in bars around the world.
Up until 2020 virtual sports were a virtual no-starter in online sports betting. Esports were far more interesting.
But once sporting leagues around the world were forced to cancel games it didn’t take long for the sportsbooks to follow virtual sporting leagues.
You can play these games at home on your PC. Game console developers have relied on virtual sports games for decades.
Who hasn’t played at least one game of virtual football or baseball with friends?
You may not feel emotionally attached to the virtual South African Football League but at least they are playing games you can bet on, right?
Here are some surprising facts about the virtual sports industry most people were unaware of.
1 – Virtual Sports for the Internet Are Old
If you’re thinking Activision and Playstation are the kings of virtual sports, think again.
Kiron Interactive was launched in 2001 and they are one of the dominant players in the online virtual sporting space for casinos.
If you’re checking out virtual sports at your favorite online betting sites, chances are good they are running Kiron’s games.
Other popular providers include:
And some of your favorite online gaming developers offer virtual sports, too. Playtech is one such provider.
According to an article Kiron Interactive co-founder Steven Spartinos wrote for EGR Virtual Sports & eSports Reporter at the beginning of 2018, by that point virtual sports accounted for about one-fifth of the revenue of sportsbooks around the world.
Small industries often talk about percentages and growth to strengthen their legitimacy. It’s a well-established business promotion strategy.
Ready or not, the virtual sporting industry has arrived for everyone who wants to bet on sports.
2 – Everyone Watches the Same Games
Bettors are not uploading game statistics from their home computers for these virtual sporting leagues. Any game you see online is played only once. Everyone watches the same game and it’s streamed live as it is played out.
The only difference between the virtual sports and real sports is that the athletes are computers (or computer programs).
Developers include a lot of details in the virtual games. You’ll see players react to successful or failed plays, officials running across the field, camera operators and people in the crowds, and more. Games also have commentators.
If you like replays on close calls some virtual sports games include those.
Playing one game for all punters allows the platforms to dedicate more resources to the streaming experience, so the animations often look very good.
3 – Africa Is a Huge Market for Virtual Sports
Westerners have many misconceptions about Africa. I could write about Africa all day.
- 1.29 billion people live in Africa.
- Over 500 million people in Africa have Internet access.
- Over 200 million Africans have Facebook accounts.
- There are 54 internationally recognized countries in Africa.
- Some of the world’s leading universities are in Africa.
- Some African countries are as large as the United States.
- Nigeria has over 200 million people.
- Over 100 million Nigerians have Internet access.
As far as virtual sports is concerned, Africa represents big business. So when you’re betting on virtual games, you could very well be betting against African enthusiasts.
If your impression of the African Internet is of some scammers sitting in smoke-filled Internet cafes sending phishing emails to gullible westerners, think again.
4 – Teams License Use of Their Names
If you’ve wondered why some virtual sports games use real team names and others do not, it’s because the teams have sold licenses to use their trademarks to certain providers.
I would not read more into these branding relationships than that. Virtual sports technology is very mature and the companies providing these games know how to do it.
Enthusiasts may report occasional glitches but that happens in all types of online gaming.
5 – Virtual Sports Teams Do Have Strengths and Weaknesses
Although the games rely heavily on random number generators, it wouldn’t be much fun if you had no chance at all of picking a good team in any match.
Some writers claim that virtual sports function just like online slot games because they both use random number generators. The truth is slightly different.
The teams’ performances are thus tied to both these pre-selected factors and the random numbers used to decide how the virtual athletes play.
Some bettors wonder if the virtual sports teams are constructed using statistics from their real-world counterparts (if they have any).
That’s really a decision each vendor has to make. There are pros and cons to these choices. It would be a mistake to assume that a virtual sports league is a fantasy sports league taken to a new level.
Even if real-world athletes’ statistics are used to seed virtual players, the virtual athletes’ abilities change over time.
In other words, the variables used to calculate a virtual athlete’s moves and plays are changed.
Bettors who want to find a team or athlete to favor should be able to do so, but the performance of a chosen team or athlete should vary just as real-world teams and athletes’ performances change.
6 – Virtual Sports Betting Differs from Live Sports Betting
The online sportsbooks work very much the same in many ways. The major vendors allow their casino customers to request changes to the basic betting interface. These customizations allows online casinos to integrate virtual sports betting into their existing platforms.
These requirements may contribute to the widespread idea that virtual sports are a lot like online slot games. For these reasons some people say virtual sports games are more fair than live events.
Virtual sports betting does offer more options than live sports betting. So if you’ve been frustrated with the inability to make some kinds of bets on live games, you may be pleasantly surprised when you get into virtual sports betting.
One major difference between live sports betting and virtual sports betting is the ability to research live teams and athletes.
Despite efforts to build consistency of performance into the virtual teams, punters won’t be able to research their individual players.
And even though they include a lot of details, even minor random events, virtual sports cannot match real-world events for every possible chaotic moment. The game plays may also be somewhat less spectacular but this is a matter of opinion.
The inability to conduct research into virtual sports athletes has been spun as a strength for people who are new to sports betting.
I don’t make to make it sound like a weakness, but some punters will feel like one of their hands has been cut off if they cannot do proper research.
On the other hand, novice punters don’t really need to know anything about the real-world sporting leagues. They can just learn to use the virtual sporting systems and they’ll do fine.
Maybe a future generation of virtual sports software will create persistent players whose performances evolve over time. These would be like special purpose robots.
7 – Esports and Virtual Sports Are Very Different
There is a human player behind every avatar in esports. That means each player could make human mistakes, react too slowly or too fast, and will develop habits in play that could have an impact on esports betting.
The game developers could include some random virtual mistakes but the games are already calculating a lot of variables for each play. Their unexpected mishaps may be due to nothing more than random timing.
- What does that mean for the emotional impact of a missed play?
- Will you care more if you just won or lost $50 on a human player than on a computer?
I don’t know if anyone cares enough to do research on the subject. The bottom line should be your bottom line.
With predictions that sports could be away for a while, virtual sports may have found an unexpected advantage in the online gaming world.
Although it’s too early to tell if sports betting will fully embrace virtual sports there is no doubt that their popularity has increased over night.
Punters want some action and virtual sports were ready and waiting to fulfill that need.
No matter why you find yourself investigating the world of virtual sports, you should keep an open mind. There is more to it than sharing a game console with a friend in your living room.