As the third most important revenue stream (in terms of value) for many online bookmakers, behind the big two of football and horse racing, Virtual Sports has grown massively in importance for sports betting sites over the past five years in particular.
What was once a niche market for people to enjoy a frivolous wager or two on simulated sports, has turned into one of the most popular features of a sports betting site, with more money spent on bets on Virtual Sports than on tennis, rugby, F1, golf and cricket betting.
It is clear that Virtual Sports is here to stay and yet this is still very much an industry that is in its infancy with the potential to grow markedly over the coming years.
One area in which the industry may well grow is by diversifying the number of Virtual Sports games that a site, such as betway, offers to its customers. Presently, you can play the following Virtual Sports games at betway:
- Virtual Football
- Virtual Horseracing
- Virtual Greyhound Racing
- Virtual Speedway
- Virtual Motor Sports
- Virtual Cycling
- Virtual Trotting
On some other sites, such as bet365 Sport, another Virtual Sport, Virtual Tennis, is also available.
However, it is clear that the appetite for Virtual Sports betting remains undiminished and as a result, what are the other Virtual Sports that could be developed for people to play next?
Future Virtual Sports?
In truth, it is theoretically possible to develop any sport into a Virtual Sport option, although there is no doubt that some sports translate into Virtual Sports far more easily than others. Race-based sports are particularly popular and it is fair to say that these events could well be developed in the future.
There are a number of sporting events which, due chiefly to their duration and number of competitors, would make for easy transition into Virtual Sports, however many of these events are not what you would term hugely popular betting markets.
- Virtual Athletics – I am surprised that athletic races are not more popular betting fodder for customers. This is especially the case when big athletics meetings, such as the Olympics or World Championships are taking place. If you consider that a typical Virtual Sports betting event takes three minutes from start to finish, with highlights of the event lasting for approximately 1/3 of that time, there are a number of athletics events that would translate well into a Virtual Sports format, such as the 100m Sprint, 100m and 110m Hurdles, 200m and the 400m, although you could also show the final lap or closing stages of longer race events such as the 800m, 1,500m, 3,000m, 3,000m Steeplechase, 5,000m, 10,000m and the Marathon.
- Virtual Track and Field – Again, rather like athletics, I am surprised that these events are not more popular with betting fans. With a small number of competitors and just one throw, jump or vault apiece, you could fit a small field event into the Virtual Sports framework relatively easily. This would then allow you to offer a wide variety of field events including Javelin, Discus, Shot Put, Long Jump and Triple Jump. However some events, such as Pole Vault and High Jump would be more difficult to fit into the framework due to how they are structured and how the winner is decided (by a process of elimination, rather than by someone jumping higher or further, or throwing further than their opponents).
- Virtual Swimming – Rather like athletics, the shorter swimming events, such as the 50m and 100m sprints, across the four different strokes, would all be very simple to convert into Virtual Sports games, while you could also show the closing phases of longer races if you wished to expand on these events.
- Virtual Cricket – While it would be impossible to replicate the most popular forms of cricket from T/20 Games through to test matches, you could play a shorter version of the game, where each team has to score the highest number of runs in a single over and where if a player is dismissed, then this would affect the number of runs the team achieves in the over. This wouldn’t be a like for like replica of real cricket, but it would at least afford punters the chance to bet on a Virtual version of the sport, in the same way they can Virtual Tennis or Football for example.
- Virtual American Sports – With Virtual Sports betting now being legalised in several stages across the United States, I think over the next few years we may well see a number of Virtual versions of different American sports with likely American Football, Basketball, Ice Hockey and NASCAR/Indy Car or other forms of racing likely to be the ones developed due to their huge popularity within America but also around the world too.
How Likely is it we will see additional Virtual Sports?
I think it is increasingly likely that as Virtual Sports betting grows, companies will seek to increase the range of Virtual Sports that they offer to customers. Indeed, there is even ability to take Virtual betting beyond sports and into other simulated markets, such as Virtual General Elections, where you could bet on which party is the winner of the election, or Virtual Pop Charts, where you can bet on which of a selected number of songs will be the number one in terms of sales in any given week.
The beautiful thing about programming a Virtual Betting event is that you are only restricted by your imagination and while sports have proven to be an ideal starting point for Virtual betting, there is nothing to stop companies developing many different forms of Virtual betting events for punters to bet on in the future.
However, the way that Virtual Sports can be developed is not solely dependent on developing new Virtual Sports or other events to diversify the number of options available to punters. You can make some subtle changes to current Virtual Sports which can add a new level of excitement and further betting opportunities to these games too.
What changes are likely for current Virtual Sports?
In terms of current Virtual Sports, the biggest change I can foresee which is the most simplest aspect of it to add, is an increase in the number of markets you can bet on and indeed, this has already happened with Virtual Sports over the last few years.
Allied to that, I can see a greater context being added to Virtual Sports in the future. In Virtual Football, for example, games are simply randomly played and have no context other than producing a result between the two teams. I can see a time (and there are games already being developed that have this feature) where Virtual Football replicates the games played across a real football season, which would then allow punters to make additional Future market bets, such as on which team would win the league or cup competition being contested.
It is perhaps here that the next steps in the journey for Virtual Sports will be made, but what is certainly true is that the next few years will see a development of some sort within the industry and that only promises more and greater opportunities to enjoy this burgeoning new area of betting.