Opinion: Sportradar brings new realism to virtual sports

25th March 2020 2:34 pm GMT
Sportradar Virtual Baseball

At ICE last month we spoke to Sportradar’s Frank Wenzig, Managing Director of Gaming. He talked to us about the latest addition to their virtual sports betting offering and the importance of creating a lifelike sports betting alternative within their gaming solutions.  

What is the benefit of having Virtual Sports as part of a sportsbook offering?

Unlike real sports, Virtual Sports provide the ability for bookmakers to offer a product that enables their customers to bet whenever and wherever they like, 24/7. This means, even if live sport isn’t taking place, if the final whistle has blown or the season has stopped, operators still have a way of attracting audiences and keeping them on site.

What was behind your reason to add baseball as your next virtual sports product?

Virtual In-Play Baseball was created as part of our official data partnership with Major League Baseball (MLB) to help the sport grow its audiences across the world. Providing our clients with the opportunity to tap into the popularity of baseball using our realistic virtual offering allows players globally to engage even more with the sport 24/7, whenever and wherever they like. This also forms a key part of our US strategy to make the virtual sports portfolio even more appealing to US audiences.

How was the product developed in terms of the graphics and how are they so life-like?

From a data perspective, we conducted an extensive analysis of MLB data so that we could provide an experience as close to the real sport as possible. We also analysed a lot of American sports user-interfaces user experiences to ensure our baseball product fit with the US-specific broadcast style. The super realistic graphics of our Virtual Baseball product were, like most of our virtual products, developed using a combination of the latest motion capturing technology, our expert graphics artists team and our innovative in-house 3D engine for the video generation.

The product is an extension of your partnership with the MLB. How does official data from real games benefit virtual products?

There are two main ways that an official data partnership benefits a virtual product, and this is in the look and the feel of the product.

In terms of the look, it’s important to ensure the audience feels familiar with the product from a graphical perspective. In this respect, factors such as team names, uniforms and club logos are important, but, additionally, so too are the more detailed aspects that may not be obvious at first glance, for example the texture of the jerseys. The more it looks like the real thing, the better!

In terms of the feel, this comes down to the overall way the game is played out, the betting markets and odds, as well as the typical US-broadcast style layout, which include statistic overlays. All of this detail is derived from and based on real MLB data and games. This is what helps create a betting experience that is as close to the real thing as possible. The more it feels like betting on a real-life baseball match, the better and more valuable.

Why is realism so important in virtual products?

The target audience for Virtual Sports are the same for that of real-life betting - sports punters. Therefore, the more we can blur the line between virtual and reality the better the perception and uptake it will have amongst these target audiences. As technology continues to develop, it will only be a matter of time before virtual sports become so realistic that the line between virtual and real will become even less apparent. Bookmakers need to keep up with this if they want to ensure their virtual offering stands apart from the rest.

Do you think virtual products will continue to expand and what is their role in emerging markets like the United States and Latin America currently?

We’re already witnessing clear indicators for the ongoing growth of virtual sports. Due to its increasing popularity, and the resulting increasing business value, for example, we are seeing more and more jurisdictions introducing virtual sports regulations.

Virtual Spots are available at low cost and low risk. They have the ability to provide short-cycle events for those who are time-poor and don’t want to watch a full real-life game play out, plus, again, they run 24/7, providing an entertaining betting experience around the clock. Virtual Sports are also very easy to customise and localise to suit various customer needs across the world.

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