Virtual sports products have provided a boon for sportsbooks amid a sparse calendar. iNTERGAMINGi talks to those leading the way in the ever-more sophisticated vertical.
Our Commercial Director, Spyros Stavropoulos, participated in the roundtable, sharing his insights on the vital role of virtual sports during the recent pandemic and the consequent lack of real-life betting opportunities for sports fans.
What is new in virtual sports?
Technological advances lie in this respect, as high quality and realistic graphics play an essential role in creating real-life experience for the bettors. Alongside, the wide range of game titles, as well as the introduction of new betting markets, come to complete the innovation puzzle of Virtual Sports. Apart from the traditional virtual sports, now exotic game virtual game titles are available to attract niche audiences.
What are the major advantages of virtual sports for operators?
Nowadays, virtual sports are considered as prime and strong gaming products, having surpassed by far their initial market placement as just filler content to live sports and racing events. The rise of betting on virtual sports is fully aligned with the fast-paced modern consumer modalities, the consumer’s desire for product diversity and the competition among operators that drives growth through increased product offering and differentiation. Virtual sports are ideal products in such market conditions since, in contrast to the real ones, they can be scheduled at any time their game cycle lasts much less than the duration of a real event, they can be offered on a 24/7 basis, facts allowing for the provision of unlimited betting opportunities to punters. Moreover, the margin can of any virtual game be configured as per the operator’s needs, securing the revenue level required.
How did the coronavirus pandemic affect the need for operators to offer premium virtual sports products?
Interestingly enough, this downtime/slower time leads both operators and suppliers to focus on strategy to make the most of this online-focused consumer behaviors. Most betting operators are now much more focused on Virtual Sports betting due to the current global live sports and racing suspension a fact that brings the thrill and the excitement of real sporting action.
Are customers now more aware of virtual sports products than before the pandemic struck?
When it comes to awareness, operators in both mature and emerging markets have adopted virtual sports offering in the past decade, thus the majority of players are aware of virtual sports and familiar with their gameplay. What we have noticed during the pandemic struck, is an increased level of demand for the specific type of content, and successful product roll-outs, based on the virtual sports unique features – fast-paced and frequent events, unlimited sporting action, etc. Based on these features, the addition of virtual products to any portfolio, if properly selected and deployed, is a great enabler for every operator seeking to attract and engage new customers, draw the attention of younger demographics, as well as retain existing customers base.
How can you ensure your own products are profitable in such a saturated igaming marketplace?
Our goal is to enable lotteries and gaming operators to shape the ideal product mix of virtual games for each market, quickly make them available to their markets via a single integration through our multi-vendor, multi-content platform, Vermantia CONNECT, and seamlessly manage them thereafter via a single interface and a universal scheduler.
Our services are bespoke to every one of our partners, a key differentiator factor. CONNECT platform allows for quick changes on the product mix, meaning additions or removals of virtual game titles from the daily schedule, either developed in-house or provided in partnership with third parties.
Flexibility, variety, fast time to market and customer-focused delivery are a few other key factors for us, contributing to our operator partners’ growth.
Operators’ requirements vary from country to country, as happens with the betting markets players are more interested in betting on. So, it is important to give the operator such choice.
Technically, how far has the virtual sports vertical advanced in recent years?
Cutting-edge technology and significant improvements in motion capture, graphics and animation, all contributed in making virtual games look more realistic and entertaining, attract more and more players’ attention and become an increasingly integral part of each operator’s portfolio and one of the fastest growing and fully autonomous product vertical.
Players are much more educated, looking for new games in different sports, featuring sophisticated game logic and advanced betting options and industry should meet that demand. But also mathematics and data have a lot to do with Virtual Sports. Mathematics and data sit at the core of the offering and are what draw a customer back after the initial novelty of the graphics wear of.
Which other regulated, or soon-to-be regulated markets are you looking towards?
We have seen particular success in Europe in both mature and evolving markets, including Italy, Bulgaria and Romania among others. In LatAm and the Caribbean virtual games are a big and evolving market and we are rapidly expanding there. Alongside, our constant effort to stand out has seen us go from strength-to-strength in CIS and North America as more and more territories gradually follow and adopt Virtual Games.
What is the key to players trusting that virtual sports results are random and fair?
Today’s bettor is familiar with the virtual game modalities and the RNG technology.
By “adding” a certified random number generator into the equation, it is obvious that the product operates at its intrinsic level, much more like a slot machine. Results are random and as such, are fair and it is difficult and completely up to the player to predict the winner of an event.
How can millennials be best targeted by virtual sports developers?
The rise of betting on virtual sports is fully aligned with the fast-paced modern consumer modalities and the consumer’s desire for product diversity. Millennials constitute the target audience when it comes to Virtuals. With virtual sports, operators can accelerate the betting experience and entertainment value for players, in much less time than a real sporting event can achieve.
Millennials want their user experience to be enhanced and personalised, and it’s the industry’s job to deliver that if we are to compete for their leisure spend. Mobile-first approach, personalisation and social media interaction have a key role to play here. There are plenty of tools offering a wealth of untapped opportunities for operators.
This is also the case when it comes to marketing and promotional outreach for today’s digitally connected customer. Some of the savvier operators out there already know this and are focusing heavily on delivering digital-first experiences and take advantage of them.
What particular sports in the virtuals world are proving increasingly popular and why?
The key is understanding the nuances of each market. What we are seeing at Vermantia, and looking to provide for our operator partners, is variety and flexibility with which to deal with different market challenges. Prime sport like football and racing dominate the mature and booming markets.
But, there are innovative hybrid products that thrive with players in LatAm and Caribbean, like our Virtual Greyhound Racing with Real Content which gives the thrill of real racing in a virtual format.
Also, new markets like the naturally demand virtual versions of their prime sports. That’s why we have developed our award-winning virtual baseball game.
There is no one-size-fits-all. For that reason, we have also integrated many game providers into our CONNECT platform so that the operators can select among a unique variety of Virtual Sports, including our own game titles, effectively covering all their needs, related to their virtual games portfolio, allowing for selection from whatever virtual game type they are interested in.
Read the full iNTERGAMINGi roundtable here (pages 29-33).