For those on the outside of gaming, the rise of esports certainly came as a huge surprise as seemingly out of nowhere there were huge events with hundreds of millions of viewers throughout the year – but for those who were interested in the esports gaming space, it had been a long time coming as the current scene has been a product of those involved over the past twenty years. One thing that did remain relatively obscure for the longest time, however, had been within an esports betting market as something resembling what we now see today only really emerged back in late 2013 and early 2014 – whilst there were sites available before this, most were less than trustworthy and had no real benefit to being explored either – outside of esports changing regulation allowed for sites and services like betting options in Texas to grow for example, but what changed within the games themselves?
The first step had been the launch of loot boxes in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive back in 2013, although loot boxes weren’t new at this point in time, Counter-Strike was certainly the first game where players were able to make huge profit from selling the in-game cosmetics, and that led to the first lucrative betting market appearing with skin betting. Growing to become nine-billion-dollar market in just three years, it enabled players to bet on what was at the time the largest esports title in a way that wasn’t really possible before, sponsorships for the betting sites started to appear on the bigger event stages, and it became normalised. That isn’t to say this method didn’t have difficulties, early issues with high profile match fixing and the launch of betting and gambling sites with questionable intentions meant that CS:GO skin betting wouldn’t stick around and by the end of 2016 had largely all but disappeared – but as a first big attempt it did allow other sites to grow in a more traditional manner.
It’s become much more common to see the big names in esports betting now as team sponsorships and event sponsorships have appeared, and even the bigger organisations typically involved in traditional sports betting have made the adjustment across too – so what comes next? Well emerging games have become a big expectation, newer titles like Valorant which released last year and has quickly emerged as one of the top four games is an example of quick growth, but many point towards the growing general acceptance towards esports as a whole as a big reason too – this past year saw a shift for a growing audience perhaps a little outside of the normal target demographic, and this change happening will be a big reason for expected growth in esports betting this year alongside viewership, and a big reason for change moving forward too as it becomes a more normalized habit and hobby.