CCO, Bobby Longhurst, discusses the virtual sports boom
What is new in virtual sports?
Virtual sports are constantly evolving and adapting to suit player needs. With the competition between providers as strong as ever, we are seeing the need to continually improve. The graphics have never been better and they can offer an ultra-realistic experience for players these days. In addition, there are so many more types of sports that are covered now along with a greater number of betting markets for bettors to choose from. It has never been more important to ensure your overall offering is packed with a wide range of products, which is why we’ve expanded the Pronet Gaming platform to offer even more virtual sports from the likes of Sportradar, Kiron Interactive and Golden Race with more to come.
What are the major advantages of virtual sports for operators?
Virtuals have and always will be the most reliable product for sportsbook operators given that they can run at any time of the day with minimal threat of downtime. Even before the current global crisis, it’s worth remembering that virtuals accounted between 20 and 25 per cent of turnover for the majority of operators. Virtual sports were never designed to replace live action, merely to offer players something to entertain them during off-peak times or when fixtures fell afoul of the weather. Virtuals can be relied on at any time to give an authentic and exciting simulation and a wide range of betting markets.
How did the coronavirus pandemic affect the need for operators to offer premium virtual sports products?
A quick glance at the industry trade press websites highlights the demand for virtuals right now. It’s safe to say virtuals have never been more popular with operators scrambling to source alternative products during this live sports shutdown. While virtuals are an obvious choice for sportsbooks, it’s important to note that there are other forms of entertainment available to bettors which can be of interest, including esports and casino games. Those with access to a platform with a wide variety of content will be in a strong position to keep players engaged, maximising revenue?
Are customers now more aware of virtual sports products than before the pandemic struck?
Virtual sports have been a known betting vertical for a while now. However, we’re now seeing a surge of newcomers become engaged with the product as they become more familiar with the experience. In the UK, broadcasting the Virtual Grand National live on ITV was hugely successful in raising millions of pounds for NHS. It also showcased to millions watching from home how this type of betting has become far more sophisticated in recent times. With the awareness of virtuals growing by the day, it’s a safe bet to continue offering the product long into the future.
How can you ensure your own products are profitable in such a saturated iGaming marketplace?
Working with a number of sportsbook operators, we knew we had just the tools in virtuals to ride the coronavirus storm and ensure our customers continued to be profitable during testing times. Though Pronet Gaming has the man power and ability to work with the biggest operators, we also pride ourselves on our speed and agility when it comes to adapting to changing market trends. It’s for that reason we were able to market virtuals as if they were live sporting events, helping them sit top of our platform much like the Manchester Derby or Aintree Grand National would have done. This ability to plan and execute in a matter of days is a great example of how our proactiveness is executed to support our operators.
Technically, how far has the virtual sports vertical advanced in recent years?
Virtual sports have come on leaps and bounds since they first appeared on the market. The quality of graphics and sounds now mean they rival that of many Playstation or Xbox games. However, it’s the depth of offerings as well as the betting markets available that make them such an improved product offering. From horse racing and football, to badminton and ice hockey, virtuals appeal to a large demographic.
How can millennials be best targeted by virtual sports developers?
It’s a case of consistently improving graphics and the narrative in order to make it as authentic and believable as possible. This is a generation that has grown up with the latest in software provision and won’t settle for less. It’s for that reason suppliers are always looking to make the product as a whole, the best it can be. And that includes the sports covered, betting markets offered and entertainment factor.
What particular sports in the virtuals world are proving increasingly popular and why?
Much like in traditional live sports, football and horse racing are the most popular in the majority of markets. However, it’s important to localise and tailor your virtual sports offering, just as in the same way as you would approach sports betting. That’s why the Pronet Gaming platform features a wide range of virtual events, allowing operators to tailor the offering to match their customers’ expectations.