Esports betting shouldn’t exist in a vacuum — American gamblers should care about layoffs in the industries that touch their form of entertainment, Tom Lace told Bonus. Downsizing esports leagues and aspects of the video gaming industry can impact esports betting through lower broadcast quality, for instance, said the Australian journalist.
Lace also oversees content marketing for esports betting brands through his firm Tactile Communications.
Bonus Q&A: Tom Lace on Esports Betting
The questions in bold are from Bonus.
Lace answers them below.
Should US esports bettors care about video gaming layoffs?
US esports fans should care about the layoffs happening in the video game industry. The sector is the sum of its parts, and particularly for publicly listed companies, it can have a flow-on effect on the games fans play and watch. Additionally, there are lots of very talented people who aren’t doing what they do best: make great games!
For US esports bettors, it depends on what games they’re interested in. Titles like League of Legends and Counter-Strike haven’t really been affected, but if you’re an Overwatch bettor, you’ll be acutely aware of the recent vote by many teams to leave the franchised Overwatch League (OWL).
Game publisher Activision Blizzard is scuttling the league in its current form, with two-thirds of the teams leaving the competition altogether. This will likely come with even more layoffs as the entire professional Overwatch scene will need to be reshaped.
What’s the history of layoffs within the games esports teams play?
The publishers sit at the top of the pyramid as they own the game. Aside from Activision Blizzard, publishers of the major titles relevant to esports betting, like Riot Games and Valve, have enjoyed a pretty comfortable position.
The most common place you’ll see layoffs concerning the big esports betting titles is on the production and organization fronts. Whether it’s Activision’s decision regarding the OWL, the laying off of much of their esports division, or well-respected third-party companies like Esports Engine — running broadcasts, competitions, and live events is expensive.
The layoffs and sustainability of third-party production companies and tournament organizers is particularly challenging because that’s where much of the grassroots action and spirit that makes you love esports happens.
How do the layoffs impact improvements in the games?
There’s an important distinction between layoffs on the game development side and the esports side. The widespread layoffs across the gaming industry have impacted the whole game development environment, especially independent firms or smaller studios part of a larger company. But you can take one look at Riot Games’ careers page to see they’re still looking for more resources to continue building and iterating their game titles.
It’s on the esports side that you see the impact. Layoffs of publisher esports divisions, reductions in broadcast quality or capability, and downward pressure on production staff wages or caster rates are a few of the symptoms.
The constant demand for new slots and other games in online casinos may help keep people employed.
Could that happen for video games involved in esports betting?
There’s plenty of hard work needed for quality online casino games, but it’s a little bit apples and oranges.
It’s much more demanding and resource-intensive to build a fully-fledged video game fit for an engaging esports experience and subsequent betting experience.
Launching a new game title fit for professional esports is more akin to launching a new sport, and then a pro league for that sport. As a relatively new title launched in 2021, Valorant is a good example of a new game title breaking onto the scene. The important distinction for Valorant is that Riot Games created the game with professional esports as well as casual play in mind.
One to watch is Riot’s upcoming Project L — a fighting game featuring characters from the League of Legends universe. Fighting games have traditionally been difficult for operators and suppliers to offer odds on, but there’s no doubt that fighting game communities are one of the most passionate and engaged cohorts in all of esports.
Should esports bettors be pushing for video game industry unions?
I think everyone, not just esports bettors, should be pushing for unions in the video game industry. Unions protect the interests of workers and help ensure they have a healthy, safe, and sustainable work environment.
You can’t bring out the best in people when they’re experiencing crunch, burnout, and insecure employment — all problems that are widespread in the video game industry across the globe. A big part of this is the size and scale of the video game industry in the United States, which often has less worker-friendly employment relations compared to other countries.
Unionized workers are better protected, better resourced, and better rested. It means they can be better at their jobs. Video game industry workers are incredibly talented specialists, it’s only right they’re looked after like anybody else.
Should esports influencers also want unions?
As in a union for influencers? That’s a different ballgame. I believe that influencers are more like small businesses, agencies, or consultants rather than a collective of workers. That’s not to say that work isn’t involved, but the nature of the engagement and how money is made is different.
Generally, influencers are entering a partnership or agreement with a brand for a set of services rather than being employed by the brand. I imagine most brands aren’t paying into the influencer’s pension fund, a common indicator, or an employer-employee relationship. In many cases, influencers have teams of employees to help run their operation, they might be the ones paying into someone else’s pension fund!
Further, unions operate within a specific state or federal legal jurisdiction, with specific regulations that allow said union to advocate for its members. Influencers are often engaging with brands or working in different jurisdictions to their partners or clients, which would make the viability of a union more difficult. An influencer union in the United States is going to have a hard time with a labor dispute in France.
What else should Bonus readers know?
There’s a saying that betting is a recession-proof sector. Thus far, esports betting has proven to be the same. Despite the market correction, layoffs, and so-called “esports winter,” the conversations I’ve had indicate that bet volumes have continued to rise, with the operators and suppliers that are focused on esports still finding plenty of success.