Prediction markets, such as those that exist in the realm of fantasy sports, have taken off amongst consumers in the last few years. But fantasy sports have yet to make much of a play in one of the hottest areas online right now, namely esports. And it’s a big market.
Fantasy esports have been thriving across international markets. In 2017, more than 360 million viewers watched League of Legends alone, significantly overtaking the Super Bowl viewership. By 2020, the esports industry is estimated to be worth more than $1.5 billion, with the target audience being 21-35 years old. But quite how to take advantage of this arena has been a conundrum.
Now a new startup thinks it has the answer. What if you could create a live predictions market around esports as it happens?
That’s the aim of WARD, a startup out of Berlin that has created a “pick and predict” real-time prediction smartphone game, where players can win real prizes.
Billed as a fantasy esports game that provides a second-screen real-time experience for tournaments, WARD has now secured a $600,000 seed round. The backers are Impulse VC, SmartHub and a number of European angel investors. The seed investment will be used to build out the product, but also to expand in the lucrative markets of Asia and the U.S.
So how does it work? Well, fans who watch a championship or a specific esports game can predict their version of in-game events in real-time. So, for example, in the League of Legends game, a user can make a prediction about who will spill “first blood” or which team will destroy the first tower in the game, and so on.
For every prediction users make correctly, they are awarded points. Users who acquire the most points can top the leaderboard and go on to win prizes. These can include headphones, tickets for championships and signed merchandise such as team jerseys. Of course, this depends on the partner paying WARD to be featured. But, the more the user wins, the better prizes they get and the bigger the brand uplift for the team or sponsor.
Kirill Belov, managing partner at Impulse VC, says he was “stunned by the WARD technology, team and global vision. It is our first funding in the esports industry, and WARD is one of the best platforms to expand the scope of further investments.” High praise indeed.
WARD has so far run beta tests in Berlin based around the European League of Legends Championship Series, but the official launch is set for June 2018 with an aim to attract 3 million downloads by the end of the year.
The plans also include global expansion to Asia and adding new esports disciplines, such as Overwatch, CounterStrike (CSGO) to the app.
You can download the app here.