By Ben Blaschke
Roman Kuts from software solutions provider Slotegrator and Peter Korpusenko from virtual sports giant Golden Race discuss the evolution of virtual sports and why they have become a genuine alternative to the real thing for bettors across the globe.
“Virtual” is quite the buzz word in the gaming industry right now. At industry trade shows all around the world – be it February’s ICE in London or G2E Asia in Macau – exhibition floors are increasingly filled with various virtual reality and virtual gaming products. And with good reason too, given ongoing advancements in technology and the growth of online gaming in general.
Yet while the future possibilities surrounding virtual reality tend to attract the attention of the wider media, it is virtual gaming – not to be confused with its 4D cousin – that is making its mark in the present. For the uninitiated, virtual sports is a real gaming simulation that looks to provide a realistic sporting event experience for players with respect to existing sports rules and principles.
Players place bets on matches and sporting events of their choice just as they would with traditional sports betting, except that the matches and sporting events are “virtual” with results determined by a random number generator and taking into account a range of factors.
“In practice, any kind of sport can have its virtual variant,” explains Slotegrator Sales Manager Roman Kuts.
“There are all types of sports, except for things like bobsleigh, curling and biathlon and the only reason for that is because nobody has yet developed simulators of these sports. In the near future these sports may well be developed by providers as well, but for now the options include popular sports like football, dog racing, ultimate fighting and basketball.”
Virtual sports have been in the market for more than a decade but their popularity has exploded over the past few years due primarily to the incredible realism that modern technologies provide.
And such realism isn’t restricted solely to graphics – even if many of today’s virtual sports can be difficult to differentiate from the real thing.
As Golden Race’s Head of Sales and Product Placement for CIS countries, Peter Korpusenko, explains, “During the past four years our team has managed to study demand in the market and by analyzing such data we were able to get a clear idea of how to create new products as well as improving and modifying our old versions.
“Our dog racing service, for example, has changed a lot. Dog races used to be short tournaments, taking place every five minutes and having no logical connection between each session. Now the whole procedure for dog racing has changed so that players can analyze historical data.”
Virtual sports were a prominent feature at this year’s ICE Totally Gaming
More specifically, virtual dog racing has progressed to the point where each dog has its own rating, can be listed in league tables and comes with a huge variety of information from its sex to the number of races it has won under different conditions – all of which adds incredible realism for players.
“The dog’s strength, previous results and so on – all these aspects must be taken into account when betting,” adds Kuts. “For example, the skills of dogs are improved while participating in competitions. And when talking about horse racing it is necessary to take into consideration that every horse and jockey has their own rating and characteristics.”
Likewise, the fighters in fighting games such as Ultimate Fighting and MMA all come with different strengths and weakness that come into play depending on the opponent.
As for the most popular sport in the virtual world, football, innovation has continued well beyond such basic attributes as a player’s height, weight and impact ability.
“Our first version of football included single matches that lasted around 40 seconds to the announcement of the winner at the end of the match,” recalls Korpusenko. “These matches were super quick so that you could place a bet and win or lose right away and were extremely popular with bettors.
“However, our specialists concluded that just having these matches was too simple and not elaborate enough – especially having only two teams playing – so it was decided to introduce such games as Football Cup and Football League. Taking a closer look at Football Cup, the idea is close to the reality of battling for a football cup in real life. The teams battle with each other throughout to the semi-finals, the final and the finally the announcement of the ultimate winner. Consequently, bettors have the possibility to place bets during the whole game session, to bet in advance, to bet on the winner of the semi-finals and finals. The process is very interesting for those bettors who like analysing and tracking the way their favorite team performs and really adds to the excitement. We’ve also adjusted the duration of those matches, so Football Cup games last for 20 minutes.”
According to Kuts, the popularity of individual types of virtual sports are similar to the popularity of the real thing, so it’s no surprise that football rules the roost in Europe and across Asia. But there are distinct advantages that come with virtual sports for both players and operators.
“Why is it profitable? Speed and dynamics,” Kuts explains. “Matches, races and fights take place 24/7. At any time of the day and night your player can go to the site and gamble since there are no vacations and no off-seasons.
“There is also convenience and accessibility. When the player has a free minute, he comes to your site to play – and he can do it all day long since online matches and fights are held in a short space of time, unlike real football games or racing.
“And finally, the great advantage for the player is that, unlike slot machines and other games of chance, virtual sports allow players to use their analytical skills. Just like the real thing, virtual games include all of the dimensional characteristics such as injured players, the lack of a team leader or whether the team has had enough time to recover since their last game. All of these factors are built into the games, so despite the general opinion that virtual sports gambling is quite similar to slots betting due to the use of a random number generator, today the trend of virtual gaming is rapidly developing. In fact, bets on virtual sports events have already got all sorts of strategies that can be found on the internet.
“The main difference between classical gambling and online sports is that people take it as an entertaining and enjoyable leisure activity rather than a way to win a prize, so they’re happy to spend more time playing.”