It seems like the majority of online gambling industry professionals don’t know what to make of social gaming, myself included. Our obsession with the social gaming world began several years back, when acquisitions of social gaming companies such as the Double Down/IGT deal were running rampant and social gaming conferences subsequently started popping up all over the place.
There once was a time when we hoped social gamers had the potential to convert into real money gamblers, but our viewpoint has since come back down to earth. We’ve now settled into a mindset that social gaming and real money gambling are not the same and the separate industries are “complimentary” rather than “convergent”.
An area of the social gaming sphere that is somewhat unchartered territory is in social sports betting, an area of promise that a number of start-ups certainly have their eye on. Several more established companies, Bwin.Party’s social gaming development arm Win and social game developer Nordeus, noted the opportunity and recently combined forces to launch Sportster — Bet and Win, initially on Facebook.
Sportster—Bet and Win is a social sports betting site offering customers three modes of betting- real-match betting, virtual-match betting and Bet Race- but what’s special about Sportster is the Virtual Betting option. Barak Rabinowitz, CEO of Win, explained:
“Real-match betting is authentic and straightforward with odds and results powered by bwin.party and features that you would expect on any world class sportsbook. However, social gamers crave instant gratification, so we introduced an innovative virtual-betting dynamic. In this betting mode, players can place bets and get realistic results on the biggest rivalries even when no real-world events are taking place. Taking this to the next level, we have created a Bet Race mode that combines the thrill of betting in a highly competitive and suspenseful context never seen before”.
The key purpose of the Virtual Betting option is to ensure Sportster customers can bet on something at all times, something that truly separates Sportster from its social betting competitors.
“Most other social sports betting games only allow betting on real-world matches, which means you place your bet, and then you have to wait for the game to be played”, said Rabinowitz. “There’s maybe only a game or two each week that you really care about and want to bet on. The virtual match betting solves this problem by enabling gameplay at any and all times”.
There are a number of companies who have tried and failed at social sports betting offerings and the Sportster team is confident they have found the right formula, a major ingredient being the option to bet on Virtual Matches. Sportster has also incorporated additional social features to compliment the Virtual matches and further engage social gamers.
According to Rabinowitz, “There’s also the fun ‘Bet Race’ mode that offers all sorts of unique bets to be placed, as well as interactive quests that offer a sense of progression and achievement within the game, so it feels more like a true ‘game’ as opposed to simply an avenue for betting”.
The big question here is why would someone choose social sports betting over fixed odds betting, a format that has been practiced for centuries.
“One reason is that social sports betting offers the thrill and excitement of winning a sports bet, but without the monetary risk”, explained Rabinowitz. “But more than that, social sports betting also offers the fun and social interaction of social games, so its about things like bragging rights with your friends or seeing your name on top of the leaderboards, which provides a different but no less rewarding type of ‘win’”.
Its important to remember traditional fixed odds sports betting and social sports betting are different, likely attracting two different types of sports betting enthusiasts. It seems to me the opportunity in social sports betting is in acquiring new and different customers as opposed to enticing existing sports bettors, but the lines are still somewhat blurred at this point.
Regarding the potential crossover between traditional and social sports betting Rabinowitz responded with, “There is certainly some cross over but the two types of game play offer entirely different sets of rewards and involve different player mentalities, so someone who enjoys one might not necessarily enjoy the other. That being said, sports betting is probably the most social of the gambling verticals so it is a promising area to explore further”.
A great advantage that Sportster has over smaller social sports betting companies is their relationship with Manchester United through Bwin.Party’s sponsorship. Success for social offerings is all in the numbers and promotion through world famous teams such as ManU is a great way to attract more customers.
“We are using ManU players and the team in our ads and some of the promotional materials, and their support really helps to give the game brand resonance and authenticity”, shared Rabinowitz.
Whether or not you’re a fan of social gaming, its undeniable that there is opportunity in the social sports betting space and we’ll just have to wait and see if Sportster has the key to unlocking it. Sportster are likely on the right track with trying out innovative betting options such as Virtual Matches and taking advantage of A-list sports sponsorships with a team like ManU.
“The social sports betting market is totally untapped and represents huge growth potential”, said Rabinowitz. “We feel we have the right ingredients to open this market and offer something truly compelling to social sports betting gamers”.