Gaming and gambling are undergoing a revolutionary change. Bookmakers are setting lines on big-time international video game tournaments. Top poker players are joining the ranks of eSports teams, and top video gamers are heading into the poker world to turn pro. There is no longer a clear dividing line between the two, and that’s not a bad development at all.
Both segments of the population – gamers and gamblers – have shared common interests for decades, and we’re finally seeing the overlap. The fusion of the gaming and gambling worlds has already become a lucrative venture that will generate both industries billions of dollars in future revenue. We’re only a few years away from the full transformation of eSports. It’s only a matter of time before eSports tournaments become hyped-up, televised live events that could rival the Super Bowl and World Cup.
Gaming has become big business, especially professional gaming, and global media companies like ESPN are banking on the future of eSports– that it will become a lucrative revenue stream in the sports entertainment genre. Fortune Magazine reports that “the eSports industry will grow from $278 million in revenue in 2015 into a $765 million industry by 2018, according to forecasts from research firm Newzoo.”
It’s one thing to pay to play video games, but it’s a whole other thing to get paid to play games! The entire paradigm has shifted and the previous stigma of the gamer has quickly evaporated. Gamers are poised to become the next wave of celebrities. They’ll achieve rock-star status for their prowess in eSports. It makes sense that we’re experiencing the rise of gamers as the next big-time professional sport that someday might rival football and basketball. According to Slate Magazine, gambling is the next wave in mobile gaming.
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The monetization of the gaming world facilitated the crossover into the gambling industry. We’re on the cusp of a revolutionary boom, with gaming gaining widespread appeal while rubbing up against the gambling world.
We’re experiencing a creative period in which gaming/gambling crossovers are spawning some cutting-edge content. The Spin and Bet promotion on BetStars was clearly inspired by the popular game of roulette. The Spin and Bet promo (in which bettors have a chance to multiply the size of their wager) is a popular crossover for roulette and sports betting enthusiasts, but it’s also an example of the financial synergy between a gaming/gambling.
The Spin and Bet promo offers five potential enhanced prize pool outcomes: 1x, 1.5x, 2x, 5x, or 10x. The overall amount is multiplied by wherever the wheel stops, so it shares the same buzz as watching the outcome of a roulette spin.
THE FIRST CROSSOVER PLAYER: ELKY
ElkY, known to the world as Bertrand Grospellier, is one of the most successful gamers in the world and is considered among the all-time greatest Starcraft players. The French teenager left his home in Paris and moved to South Korea to compete professionally in the popular strategy game, the second installment of which has sold more than 1,000,000 units already. ElkY quickly became the equivalent of a rock star. ElkY was also an excellent online poker player and he realized he could earn more money playing cards than playing video games.
The gaming world got great news in 2015 when ElkY announced that he was coming out of gaming retirement to join Team Liquid as an eSports pro. During the online poker boom of the early 2000s, many gamers migrated to poker to take advantage of the global infatuation with online poker. That was the first time gamers stepped into the gambling realm… without even stepping inside a real casino. Many successfully made the crossover without even leaving their couches.
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HEADS-UP FOR ROLLS
In the online poker world, there’s a challenge among pros in which they play “heads-up for rolls” (or “HU 4 rollz” as the kids today would say in chatspeak). It’s a version of a duel in which two players engage in a winner-take-all scenario with their entire bankroll at stake. That’s the closest modern equivalent for a showdown at high noon, like in an old Western film when two gunslingers decide to settle their differences with a shootout in the middle of the street.
In the gaming world, rivalries among peers always existed and some gamers were willing to engage in “friendly wagers” among themselves in which they played for pride, bragging rights, and the glory of winning. However, other gamers were more financially driven and accepted wagers against friends. These P2P transactions, in which small sums (e.g. a few quid) were wagered on outcomes of Starcraft or Madden NFL, were the gamer equivalent of playing “heads up for rolls.”
FULL TILT HEARTHSTONE
Even Full Tilt Poker has gotten into the gaming realm. In December 2015, Hearthstone announced that Full Tilt would become their new corporate sponsor for their Heroes of Warcraft team. That move baffled some critics who thought Hearthstone and Full Tilt were technically competitors. Alas, the bluffing similarity between online poker and Hearthstone is one of the primary reasons Full Tilt was interested in a sponsorship relationship. In fact, ElkY credited his fondness for Hearthstone as one of the reasons why he ended his retirement and returned to the eSports realm. Hearthstone currently has over 40 million players and their base is growing every day.
In addition, Full Tilt made gaming/gambling crossover history when Full Tilt’s software was added to the Steam network. Full Tilt had a chance to expose its brand to a new audience. Steam is one of the largest gaming networks in the world with over 6,000 games and a massive user base of 125 million and growing. They had to vote on whether or not a new game is introduced to their platform. Full Tilt was under review, but they received enough votes to pass their rigorous “Greenlight” process. Full Tilt finally joined the Steam network, which was the first time an online poker site had ever made the leap to a gaming network. Full Tilt finally gained access to the untapped eSports market.
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BRIGHT LIGHTS, BRIGHT FUTURE FOR GAMERS
Behold the rise of the gamers! Nerd or geek culture has certainly become the centerpiece of popular culture, with video games leading the charge. The gaming community is growing exponentially with the introduction of social media gaming and the increasing ability to play games on the go via mobile phones and tablets. Many of the kids born today are fully ingrained mobile gamers because of the multi-platform accessibility for gaming opportunities.
Now, the gaming world and the gambling world have finally crossed paths. The inevitable merger of the two communities helped ignite a financial boom for both. The eSports industry might someday rival professional sporting leagues. We have already seen several successful crossovers between the two industries and communities. Former professional gamers, like ElkY of Starcraft fame, have gravitated toward professional poker. On the gaming industry side, bookmakers at major casinos have recognized eSports as a legitimate sporting contest.
I know it will never happen, but my dream is to someday see the multi-million dollar World Series of Donkey Kong hosted in Las Vegas!
Author Bio: Anthony writes on eSports and online gambling.