Stepan Shulga – Parimatch – Curiosity and thirst for something new
Betting has undoubtedly grown to become a key part across a lot of the esports industry. It’s now commonplace to see teams playing in Dota 2 and CS:GO with betting sponsors across their jerseys – while the likes of Riot and Blizzard still maintain a more frosty approach to the growing esports betting space.
One company amongst the many that has turned its attention to esports recently is Parimatch. The Ukranian-based betting company offers multiple markets on a variety of titles with the primary target market being the CIS region, and the bookmaker recently sponsored CIS juggernaut Virtus.pro.
We spoke to Parimatch’s Head of Esports, Stepan Shulga, to find out more about the company, the partnership with Virtus.Pro and adding esports to its sportsbook.
Esports Insider: How does esports compare to the likes of football or MMA on your sportsbook?
Stepan Shulga: There is no doubt that football is the «number one» sport in the world. The same is relevant to the number of bets, turnover, and other indicators. Football is at a height unattainable for all other sports. At the moment, esports is far behind, but it is a matter of time. By way of a comparison with MMA for instance, esports is undoubtedly bigger. Just think of this: the number of events in esports is much higher than in MMA. Accordingly, esports performance is better. One day esports will be in the top five by the number of bets.
ESI: Why did you decide to add esports to your sportsbook?
SS: We are 25 years old but have a young spirit that is embedded in our corporate values and culture. One guy, an analyst of sports football events, and a big fan of esports persuaded the trading department to take the risk, and we accepted our first esports bet in April 2015. Back then it was an unbelievably cheerful experiment, in the development of which nobody believed for a year. During this year, we tested various theories. As for now, we are working systematically and are having excellent results. The main answer to the question “why have we made that step” is curiosity and thirst for something new and exciting, courage, and space for experiments.
ESI: Do you think esports could surpass traditional sports as the most popular betting option?
SS: We cannot answer this question without looking at the phenomenon of the overall popularity of esports. As the industry develops (this is inevitable since the development of esports is a consequence of technological progress) the number of esports broadcasts fans will increase, the sector will seriously push traditional sports, but will not supplant them, and certainly not replace them. In the foreseeable future, “beating” football seems impossible.
ESI: You partnered with Virtus.pro last August, how important has that partnership been?
SS: The Virtus.pro brand is 15 years old. For many young people, this team, its different compositions, is, in fact, an integral part of their lives. At the moment, Dota2 Virtus.pro is the best team in the world (yes, I am sure), and the most popular top five in Russian-speaking countries. The importance of this contract does not need comments. If your company has the opportunity to cooperate with the best teams in the world, then you are doing everything right. It remains to win the main tournament of the year in China, but here our participation is minimal. I am sure that esports is very similar in behaviour patterns to a big traditional sport. Imagine that your company has a chance to be displayed at Liverpool or Bavaria T-shirt, how would you rate the importance of this contract?
ESI: Why do you think betting on esports has become so popular?
SS: It is all about empathy and involvement in the gameplay. More and more people understand what is happening on the screens during esports broadcasts. It is not surprising because they have a user experience. Fans played this computer game, understand the principles of the development of events and game situations and, accordingly, can perceive the activities of the broadcast, predict the outcomes. To empathise with what is happening.
The generation that loves and promotes esports are so-called “digital natives” – people who grew up during the computer technology transformation but are already in the era of fully accessible personal computers. As a result, we have a process with different possible outcomes. There is an audience that knows the process and the bets as an instrument of digital entertainment. No secrets!
ESI: We’ve seen the likes of Betway esports build a lot of partnerships with teams, is this something you are looking to do more of?
SS: Betway is doing a fantastic job in esports. Their partnership strategy works great for their audience and their markets. Let me remind you that we operate mostly in the CIS region. That is why we need, as well-known and popular as possible teams, especially among the Russian-speaking audiences. There are few such teams, but the strategy is interesting.
ESI: What are Parimatch’s goals for the rest of 2019 regarding esports?
SS: Our main plans are to maintain and improve high-quality services for our users consistently. Improve coverage, implement innovations, develop, and execute exciting bonus programs, dedicated to the significant events in the esports industry.