Virtual sports have been around for years. However, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 that these digital events soared in popularity. They gained a more prominent role in the iGaming and betting industries as operators began to rely on them while real world sporting events were on hiatus. Today, more and more bookmakers, and even online casinos, are offering virtual sports products to benefit from their solid revenue stream. Could it be a solid revenue stream for your business, too? TCS welcomes you to find out! Keep reading to learn more about virtual sports products, how they work, who they attract, and how they differ from real sports betting.
What are Virtual Sports Games?
The first two questions most new operators have if they are unfamiliar with the world of virtual sports betting is:
- What are virtual sports?
- Is virtual gaming a sport?
Virtual sports are real money gambling (RMG) electronic games that are inspired by real sporting events. They are derived from fantasy sports and share a number of similarities with casino games, such as using Random Number Generator (RNG) software to determine the outcome of a match. They are not actual sports themselves, but are games that simulate sporting events generated by a software program and that follow a specific set of rules.
The advanced computer-generated graphics of virtual sports games are not unlike sports video games that can be played via a computer or gaming console (e.g. Football Manager, FIFA, etc.). The life-like graphics (which can include visuals modelled after actual stadiums), as well as sports commentary and highlight reels, deliver an immersive video game-like experience that is just shy of watching a sports broadcast.
Players can choose from a numerous range of virtual sports games. The most popular include:
- Horse races
- Dog races
- Football (soccer) matches
How do virtual sports work?
Like casino games, virtual sports use specific software programs that are customized to suit various requirements to ensure a fair gaming experience for both the operator and the players. That said, these games are designed for sports betting, allowing bettors to easily make correlations with traditional sports betting activities to understand how these games function and the type of factors that should be considered when placing a wager on a virtual event.
For instance, if a player were to participate in a virtual football match, from the frontend, the simulated game follows the basic rules from real world football (e.g. league matches, domestic matches, world cup matches, etc.) and applies these rules to the digital environment. From the backend, a series of random computer-generated events determines the outcome. It is these algorithms (like those used in casino games) that ensure fair results.
Although some online bookmakers and virtual sports games will publish historical results and stats for their events, typically, in most virtual sports games, every event is treated independently.
What is virtual sports betting and how to bet on virtual sports?
In virtual sports betting all participants view the same schedule of events and the same outcomes. Each market and participation in the virtual event is assigned fixed odds. These odds determine the outcome through a mathematical algorithm or RNG.
Players place bets in a similar way that they do with any other type of betting activity. For instance, if they are playing virtual football, they will be presented with a wide selection of odds. Matches may involve games played between nations, like in the World Cup or Euro, or the games may involve any one of various club teams. Punters can place bets on who the winning team will be, number of goals to be scored, if there will be a draw, etc.
To better understand how the odds work, consider this fictional example:
The above means that West Ham are 37/100 to win the simulated fixture, Chelsea is 19/10 and the draw is 23/20. Even in fixtures related to real life matches when the odds can be influenced by the software’s judgement of the participants actual ability, the outcome remains totally random and computer generated.
Another example of popular virtual sports betting software is virtual horse racing. These games attract punters with their incredible graphics, animations, and unique entertainment features like virtual tournaments and exciting prizes. Horse racing is simple to understand. Players select their horse and place their bets. They compete against each other to determine the final race winner.
Virtual sports events run around the clock, allowing players to bet on games continuously throughout the day and night. Hundreds of events occur over the course of 24 hours. Each event has its own designated start times so players know by when all bets must be placed. Events are also much shorter than the real-world matches they imitate, usually only showing players a few minutes of action while the play unfolds.
Virtual Sports Betting Vs Real Sports Betting
Can virtual sports replace real sports? No and vice versa. Although virtual sports are based on real sports betting, there are significant differences between the two betting activities. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and one cannot truly substitute for the other. To better understand this, here are the main differences between the two:
Availability/Accessibility of Events
- Virtual sports – Rain, shine, or pandemic, virtual sports are available 24/7, with events occurring around the clock every day. Players can place a bet on a virtual football event every 2 or 3 minutes. To access games, all a player needs is an internet connection.
- Live sports – Availability is determined by when the event is scheduled and relies on external factors. Games can be cancelled or postponed due to adverse weather or a variety of issues or anomalies. Punters need to wait the full 90 minutes for the outcome or another week for a new game with their preferred team. Depending on where they live, bettors can bet on real sports via the internet, over the phone, and at local bet shops.
Ease of Betting
- Virtual Sports – A good choice for sports betting beginners, virtual sports are easy to understand and do not require up-to-date knowledge on current real life sporting events or an extensive understanding of real-life sports events.
- Live Sports – For real-life sports betting, punters need to be particularly knowledgeable about their bets, including being aware of the team’s competitive records and the players’ physical fitness.
- Virtual Sports – The event outcomes are generated at random by a computer algorithm.
- Live Sports – The event is determined by the result of various factors which may include player skill level, injuries, weather, and any other factor that can impact a real-life sporting event.
- Virtual Sports – These RNG games are strongly regulated, reducing the risk of scams or unfair outcomes.
- Live Sports – Though live sports betting events are regulated, there is a higher risk of scams (e.g. match-fixing) and unexpected events that can affect the results of a race or game.
Cost for operator
- Virtual Sports – Virtual sports costs are similar to any other RNG casino game and can often be obtained as a package.
- Live Sports – One of the most expensive aspects of having live sports are the ongoing costs associated with streaming live events.
Ultimately, one is not better than the other. Virtual sports betting and traditional sports betting are two very different experiences. They both offer thrills to players and can be an asset to an operator.
The main advantage of virtual sports is:
- Players can access a broader range of sports at any time of the day
- Players can complete bets in a short amount of time
- Player do no require real-life sports knowledge to play, making it more open to everyone
- Operators can offer customers another form of betting entertainment
Virtual sports vs VR sports
Virtual sports should not be confused with VR sports. The main difference is that unlike virtual reality sports games, in virtual sports games, players do not require a virtual reality (VR) headset to take part in these digital-based betting activities.
How is virtual reality used in sports? Virtual reality in sports is a truly immersive experience that requires the user to wear a compatible virtual reality headset (e.g. Oculus). Moreover, even though there are a handful of VR casinos, and this technology is also being tested and added to bookmaker sites to enhance players’ sports betting experiences, VR betting has yet to become mainstream.
That said, UK-based iGaming giant Entain (formerly GVC Holdings) may help to change that as it is developing a new “immersive” gaming and sports betting VR experience. The project, which is a partnership between Entain and Verizon Media, with be the gambling operator’s first VR “Sports Club” experience. The VR multi-sports betting experience will be available on the Oculus Quest 2 VR headset and will include immersive features like 360 live streaming of football matches, multi-player games, and music. Though it only reached its pilot phase in 2021, once the new VR betting product launches, it will be available across Entain’s international brands.
If it is successful, it is likely that other operators or game providers may offer VR betting options in the future.
Virtual sports vs. fantasy sports
Although virtual sports were inspired by fantasy sports, in actuality, fantasy sports are closer to traditional sports betting.
In essence, fantasy sports (which have been around since the mid 1900s and began with baseball) consist of participants creating teams of proxies that are based on real athletes. They then compare the athletes’ performance using statistical data from real world competitions. Fantasy sports covers football, golf, hockey, racing, wrestling, etc.
Statistics are gathered from the actual performance of a player in a particular year to determine the outcome in fantasy sports and are not decided at random as they are in virtual sports. As such, players who have knowledge of the sports have the advantage of predicting which athletes they believe are likely to perform better to help ensure their team tallies up the most points in the league. What’s more, fantasy sports are dependent on real world competitions actually occurring. If no games are played, there is nothing to bet on due to the lack of statistics.
To give you a better idea of how virtual sports betting compares to fantasy sports and live betting, have a look at the following table.
What are the Best Virtual Sports Betting Platforms?
If you are thinking about including virtual sports as part of your online casino or betting platform, it’s a good idea to choose a reputable platform provider who can deliver the best virtual sports betting solutions. We recommend the following:
Food for thought: Millennials are a key audience
Something else to consider – as you are deciding whether you should add virtual sports to your product offering and when you are choosing a software platform for your business – is the virtual sports target market.
Presently, Millennials make up a notable share of the target audience for virtual sports. Since this is the case, if you are considering making virtual sports apart of your gambling product offering, it’s a sound idea to cater your experience to the players most likely to be attracted to the activity.
This means addressing demands like responsive, mobile-friendly tech, fast connection and swift payments, gamification features, and enhanced social interactions to deliver a richer betting experience that will keep them engaged and returning. It’s also worth noting that beyond virtual sports, Millennials and Gen Z also make up the largest portion of the audience attracted to eSports, which also did well during the pandemic.
Due to the nature of virtual sports, iGaming businesses can attract traditional sports bettors, video game enthusiasts, and a casino audience. As such, this gambling product serves to benefit both bookmakers and casino operators alike.
Want to get started exploring your virtual sports betting opportunities? Learn more about the iGaming software platforms that can help you conveniently integrate this product.