International edition
September 25, 2020

Yogonet spoke to three experts about the opportunities available for casinos and operators

eSports: a market segment with great potential in Latin America

eSports: a market segment with great potential in Latin America
Sinisters is one of FiReSPORTS' two teams. This year, they won the Musimundo Gaming Week.
Argentina | 09/02/2019

Rodrigo Figueroa Reyes, founder of FiReSPORTS; Mark Balch, Head of eSports at Sportradar; and Roberto Borrego, CEO of eSports Planet; spoke with Yogonet about this vertical’s potential and its similarities and differences with traditional gambling.

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n accordance with a report by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, 19.4 million fans will bet over USD 23 million on eSports in 2020, generating USD 1.810 million in revenues for operators worldwide. Yogonet has spoken with Rodrigo Figueroa Reyes from FiReSPORTS, Mark Balch from Sportradar and Roberto Borrego from eSports Planet to delve into Latin America’s potential share in this market and the interaction between this vertical and other gambling segments such as casinos and traditional sports betting.

"My son is a professional Fortnite player. He began at 15 and now, he is 19. I have witnessed his growth and came to accept that I had to choose one of two options: I could kick him out, or try to understand him," said Rodrigo Figueroa Reyes, a renowned advertising businessman that decided to bet on eSports this year.

Founder and CEO of FCB & FiRe, an agency whose goals include bringing together advertising with entertainment, he took interest in the link between eSports and football so he was attracted by this business, especially as regards player’s representation and tournament organization. In May, he announced the launch of FiReSPORTS, the firm's gaming division.

FiReSPORTS has offices in Bogotá, Colombia; and it is about to open three more in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago de Chile, Chile; and Madrid, Spain. "In eSports, we have found a new way to interact with entertainment brands," Figueroa Reyes points out. Our offices include an exclusive space for gamers, who have now been followed by advertisers such as Samsung, Coca Cola, and SteelSeries, among others.

Rodrigo Figueroa Reyes knows that the eSports industry in Latin America, and especially in Argentina, is still at its early stages. However, he believes the fact he is able to mention concrete accomplishments just four months after rolling out a new business unit, means something big is likely to come.

          Betting on esports or traditional is exactly the same," Bach said.

The agency is working on a documentary financed by Movistar eSports; and the two teams it has acquired Colombia’s Vault and Argentina’s Sinisters, are already yielding major results.

"It is great that casinos are getting to know the world of eSports. The only way to lure millennials (and centennials) is by generating empathy. What do millennials want nowadays? Earning wages by doing something they enjoy. If a casino becomes known for sponsoring several teams, it will likely generate enough identification for kids to pay attention to its brand. If they do not know who they are, they won’t get close," Figueroa Reyes said about the interaction between both worlds.

Despite his optimism, the founder of FiReSPORTS remains cautious with numbers. "Many times, when speaking about turnover, eSports are brought together with gaming, and it is the latter that generates USD 178,000 million with Candy Crush, FIFA, etc. Only around USD 3.000 million come from eSports."

          We began with football not because it is the most popular and appealing eSport but because it is the easiest to understand for analog brains," Borrego said.

According to Mark Balch, Head of eSports at Sportradar, eSports are already relevant in Latin America because the segment is constant state of growth all around the world: "As long as publishers and organizers continue to innovate, create new games, big tournaments, exciting matches, things will continue to grow. Esports is a natural sub-culture of the video game industry, which is the world’s largest entertainment sector. So, I have no doubts that, with time, eSports will reach the expectations in regions like Latin America too."

Mark joined Sportradar in September 2015 initially as an Esports Analyst within the Integrity Services unit, in what was the company’s first dedicated esports role. A year later, he expanded his involvement in the overall esports operations as a Product Manager. Within this role, Mark oversaw and managed the majority of Sportradar’s esports products. In June 2018, he was promoted to Head of Esports, where he is now responsible for all of Sportradar’s activities related to the esports industry. He is based in London, UK.

Bayes Esports Solutions, a joint venture between DOJO Madness and Sportradar, has just announced a partnership with Riot Games for exclusive distribution. They have begun with a small number of leagues, but they are looking at adding more next year. "Latin America is near the top of the list of where we want to add from, together with other opportunities we are also exploring," Balch said, and pointed out that "all of our partnerships have global scope and are almost never limited to any region because unlike traditional sports, eSports is not really segmented into regions."


Mark Balch, Roberto Borrego y Rodrigo Figueroa Reyes.

Batch draws a distinction between virtual and traditional sports but not as regards betting: "Esports has never been a simulation of traditional sports, it is the competition of highly skilled video games. Esports as an industry reacts to what people want to watch. Football video games are purposely created for maximum reach with low barrier of entry, whereas the top esports games are extremely difficult to play, so are very different."

"Betting, however, follows fundamental principles of logic. It is all about prediction and understanding. In this way, betting on esports is exactly the same – people want to study the subject and make predictions on what might happen. There are ways to dress this up, create new markets, but when it comes down to it, the mechanics are usually the same," he explains.

Balch says no one is ready to establish the exact percentage of Latin America’s share in this market yet: "What I can say is that Latin America is full of passionate esports fans, and as they grow up, gain access to better jobs and money, the industry will continue to grow organically. The betting sites who have the best product will, therefore, gain the most fans."

          Esports is a natural sub-culture of the video game industry, which is the world’s largest entertainment sector," Balch said."

Argentine professional football player Javier Mascherano has also seen potential in this market and has therefore partnered with eSports Planet, who has been managing Argentine sports association Superliga Argentina de Fútbol’s eSports since last year. Roberto Borrego, the agency’s CEO, has explained that they are still not offering online betting on virtual football, but they are working on obtaining an integrity certification and then sell the content to a company that operates in a jurisdiction where these bets are allowed.

He says he is unaware of the impact that the regulation of online sports betting in Buenos Aires City and Buenos Aires Province will have on eSports: "We will see. It is not clear yet."

"We began with football not because it is the most popular and appealing eSport but because it is the easiest to understand for analog brains, especially in Latin America," eSports Planet CEO explains. "We still find people that do not comprehend this world. We have recently approached a car brand and they told us they weren’t ‘into that’. That same firm is one of the major sponsors of Overwatch in the United States, so even though it is the same brand, the behave differently in each region."

          It is great that casinos are getting to know the world of eSports," Figueroa Reyes said.

Borrego believes this first stage is going to last between a year and a year and a half. "As long as we are able to increase the exposure of electronic sports and virtual football, advertisers will begin to embrace this segment. We are still at the early stages."

Esports is also moving forward on a legislative level. Brazil’s lower chamber has to discuss Bill 383/2017 and in Argentina, proposed legislation promoted by the Argentine Association on Electronic Sports (AADE in Spanish), is being debated by a legislative committee.

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