Last week, Clarion Gaming announced a new collaboration with esports data company Abios, which will see the Stockholm-based provider sponsor the esports sections on iGaming Business and ICE365.com. Abios founder and chief executive Oskar Fröberg tells ICE365 about what the deal means for most parties, and discusses the continued growth of esports and esports betting.
What does the recently announced relationship with ICE365.com mean to the company and what do you hope to achieve?
We are naturally very excited about the partnership and to contribute to the new ICE365 platform. Abios aims to provide content and detailed insights for the industry to take part of through the platform, while presenting our team with a great communication platform to address important topics and potential issues. Among these are very important but often overlooked topics such as match integrity and regulatory compliance. Building the right foundation for esports is paramount for its continued growth.
Having been active in the industry for eight and a half years, we believe ourselves to have profound insights into what is important and want to bring them to light. Our intention is ultimately to protect the future of esports. Our team also seeks to provide value for the iGaming-community through timely esports content.
The partnership has a clear focus on education – do you think there’s a knowledge gap as far as esports and the broader igaming community is concerned and how do you hope to address it?
The igaming community is well-aware of esports, as many have already identified the market as one of the most promising sectors for future growth. Most sportsbooks have also started experimenting by at least offering a couple of markets or tournaments in esports.
Esports can however be demanding to navigate since it is both dynamic and fast-moving, with changes introduced on a regular basis and new game titles still trying to establish themselves as part of the core offering. In addition to our data and odds products, we do our best to offer in-depth content around various esports-related topics to help the igaming community identify opportunities within the sector and make educated decisions.
While there may sometimes be a slight gap in knowledge, it is more often the case that traditional companies lack properly customised tools to monetise esports. Alongside our data business, we are currently investing heavily in enabling sportsbooks to build completely custom and new experiences using our odds product.
You appear to have a strong commitment to protecting the integrity of esports – how important is this and is match-fixing a very real threat?
Match-fixing is a prevalent threat to esports, as it is to any traditional sport. Nobody wants to watch or place a bet on a match with suspicious or unfair behaviour. It removes the fun from the competition and gambles (no pun intended) with the entire legitimacy of esports. If esports is perceived as an environment with lots of suspicious activity, its public perception and viewership will be adversely affected. This is not only a challenge for Abios but for the industry as a whole.
Today, game publishers are increasingly improving safeguards to deal with cheating, making it more and more difficult to cheat. Tournament organisers work closer with data partners and sportsbooks to identify suspicious betting behaviour. Generally, large tournaments are very safe, game
publishers and tournament organisers alike take these issues very seriously. It’s important to continuously raise awareness of these subjects.
Does the involvement of big blue chip sponsors the final symbolic confirmation that esports is here to stay?
While some blue-chip sponsors such as Coca-Cola have been in the industry for years, the real shift is seen when non-endemic luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci join the mix, designing skins for games as well as clothing lines with teams. These companies are incredibly quality and brand conscious. Seeing them engage in esports provides further legitimacy for the industry. We’ve come a long way from esports being perceived as a pastime for young boys sitting in their parents’ basements, but there is still a long way to go until esports has reached its full potential.
How important is it that regulators understand the nuances of esports?
We generally do not comment on the work of regulatory bodies in esports, as we respect the immense complexities of the subject. We do however feel that it is important for regulators to understand esports and its intricacies instead of simply copying the regulations of regular sports and pasting them for esports.
A great example of a relatively new regulation is that of player ages. Several countries have put regulations in place against offering matches where the players are minors. This is both to protect the players and to combat match-fixing, which is noble. However, it simultaneously imposes complications for sportsbooks looking to keep their markets open while staying compliant in different regions simultaneously.
Abios has always put a lot of emphasis on regulatory compliance, which encompasses the need for downstream partners, such as sportsbooks, to comply with these regulations without any friction. We therefore make regulatory compliance tools an integral and automatic part of our products.
During the pandemic has esports managed to fill a void while the traditional big sports such as football weren’t able to function properly?
When practically all traditional sports were delayed, postponed or outright cancelled more than a year ago, we experienced a strong influx in interest for esports. The esports betting market has proven to be very pandemic-resilient. The best part is that esports seems to remain popular, even as traditional sports have come back.
The interest is definitely there among punters and the audience is huge. However, we still believe that there is a long way to go with building the best possible products for esports. We are conducting extensive research to find the most engaging markets and fast integration processes for our odds feed and will bring new and unique possibilities for customer differentiation given the data rich nature of esports.
Has the pandemic created a new esports audience and demographic?
With more people staying at home, more people have picked up on esports tournaments. However, the pandemic has also increased the pace of change in the esports industry. New games have grown in popularity, especially sports games which from a competitive esports perspective were very small two years ago. These games have helped bridge the gap to esports for regular sports fans and punters. The sports games have also proven to work tremendously well as filler products for when there are no matches in traditional sports.
Is this the most exciting time to be involved with the esports phenomenon and what does it mean to you personally and to Abios as a company?
With the risk of sounding clichéd, it has always been an exciting time to be involved within esports. The industry is fast-growing and nowhere near its peak.
While our odds product is currently on par with other products on the market, we have so much more in the pipeline. We have built a strong foundation with over eight years of esports data management and base our in house modelling on this unique dataset and platform. This allows us to drive down bet delays and increase uptime through automation while creating completely unique and engaging bet offers.
Clarion’s head of Esports, William Harding, described Abios as being ‘the perfect partner’ – would you concur?
We want to add value to Clarion Gaming’s high-quality content by bringing our expertise and leveraging our eight-plus-year history in esports to provide the igaming audience with further insights. Given the past years growth in the esports igaming-sector, this partnership is certainly a perfect fit.
ICE365.com launches 28 June