Why virtual sports technology is here to stay

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic threw the sporting world off balance, virtual sports has shown itself to have remarkable staying power

With the news that the National Basketball Association has allowed the likeness of its players and teams to be used in virtual sports games, it provides just another example of how this activity is becoming a fixture on modern sports betting sites.

For a long time, virtual sports sat in the shadows of traditional sports betting. But ever since the COVID-19 pandemic threw the sporting world off balance, virtual sports has shown itself to have remarkable staying power. 

As it stands, virtual sports betting is thought to account for 20% of spending at traditional betting shops, and the activity brought in revenues of $1.6 billion worldwide in 2020. But why would sports fans want to bet on simulations of sporting events and how do they engage in virtual sports compared to traditional sports betting?

The rapid growth of virtual sports

Virtual sports originally started appearing on traditional sports betting sites around a decade ago. Here you’d find virtual sports options like virtual soccer and virtual horse racing sat alongside regular casino games. This is because virtual sports use a random number generator to ensure that all of the results of the sports simulations are fair and unpredictable.

The first wave of virtual sports was fairly unremarkable, but developers were quick to add an extra level of realism to the games with crowd noise, commentary and graphics that were a close approximation of the real thing.

Sports fans could engage in virtual sports like they would a regular sporting encounter. This meant betting on which teams they expected to win in a football match or which horse would win a race. 

But a key part of virtual sport’s appeal is the fact that they are much quicker than regular sports with a game of virtual football being concluded in a matter of minutes rather than an hour and a half. Plus virtual sports games are run constantly over a 24 hour period allowing for many more betting opportunities, and there is no chance of injuries or delays to the action. 

Where will virtual sports go from here?

Realism is still the holy grail for developers of sports games. Until recently, this has been hampered by the limited licensing opportunities from major sporting franchises. As such, players would have to bet on teams with names like London Town, rather than Chelsea and so on. 

But that all looks to be changing as elite-level sport organisations are lending their likenesses to virtual sports. This August saw the NBA teaming up with a gaming studio to create AI virtual sports games that would present 3,000 betting opportunities each day on events powered by real-life data from the basketball league.

This allows players to engage with a greater deal of realism through the images of their favourite NBA teams and players. With the use of motion capture technology, players will get a much more visceral experience of the virtual sports encounter. Plus the actual gameplay is also improved thanks to the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning tools. 

With the increasing complexity of virtual sports games, it’s fostering an increase in the specialisation of the virtual sports fan. No longer is it a case of passively playing against a random number generator, but the gamer will instead pursue virtual betting tips to get a greater understanding of the statistics of the real-life players featured in the game. So while there used to be a gulf between regular sports and virtual sports, it seems that technology is bringing the two activities much closer together.  

Disclaimer | Play responsibly. For help, visit www.rgf.org.mt. Players must be over 18 years