What is the difference between Virtual Sports and e-Sports?

Modern sports betting has gone beyond the physical sports we all know and love. Nowadays we get to participate in, spectate, and bet on sports and games that are not even real! The digital world has created sports games that are so true to life that we can become our favourite soccer star, watch the hot favourite race down the turf, or put money on a team that is absolutely pwning the battlefield – all in a virtual space.

Virtual Sports and e-Sports are some of the fastest growing events for sports bettors to put their money on, but there can be a little confusion as to what these two very different game options offers. Any visitor to an online bookie will notice separate lobbies for Virtual Sports and for e-Sports – but aren’t they the same thing? Sports that take place in the virtual world?

Well, yes and no.

There is a very defined difference between what I called a Virtual Sport and what is called an e-Sport. For those who want to know the difference, take a seat and let the CasinoPlay.com crew take you on the journey through the next level of sports betting.

Some background to the rise of digital sports

The very first sports-themed ‘video/computer game’ was Tennis for Two, developed in 1958 by William Higinbotham and played on an oscilloscope. While incredibly simple, it paved the way for the international hit Pong in 1972 and the advent of arcade and console games – many of which had sports themes.

From tennis to football (soccer and American) to baseball and more, sports soon found a worthy place in the pantheon of games that were crossovers for lovers of sports and lovers of gaming. Many of us older gamers can no doubt remember mashing the buttons in the Track & Field arcade game from Konami, or Daley Thompson’s Decathlon on ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64 consoles.

Recently, however, we have found ourselves at somewhat of an “aha” moment when it comes to sports video games. Modern software and graphics (and other things in the tech revolution like web cams, live streaming, wi-fi, and so on) have created an environment that is almost a perfect replica of real-world conditions. And sports games are at the forefront.

Titles along the lines of Madden and FIFA are allowing fans the opportunity to not only play their favourite sports virtually, but manage and control every aspect of a game, and against opponents in a real time setting.

The rise of the virtual sport tournament – and the massive prize pools that are associated with them – created an avid and knowledgeable fan base with supporters, followers, commentators, and even dedicated media channels focussing on the events.

The “aha” moment has come when bookies realised they could offer odds on these virtual sports games just like they do with real sports games – and that there was a massive global audience just waiting.

virtual sports

What are virtual sports?

While ‘virtual’ tends to encompass most things that happen online or in the Cloud (online casinos are often referred to as virtual casinos, for example), there is a very specific category of Virtual Sports for the sports betting world.

Virtual Sports in online betting are all about using programmed simulation and RNG software to create a digital sporting event that punter can bet on. As such, most Virtual Sport offering are all about horse racing, greyhound racing, motorsport, tennis/table tennis, or football/soccer.

The object of Virtual Sport betting is to bet on the outcome of the events as if you were watching an actual real-life event.

What are e-sports?

E-Sports are sports that take place between teams in the digital world. What sets them apart from Virtual Sports is the fact that punters are betting on the skill and experience of teams and players as they play the games rather than on the outcome of an RNG.

E-Sports can take the form of traditionally recognised sports like soccer or can be a part of the new wave of competitive competitions where players are competing in video games like League of Legends or Fortnite.

These games are becoming more and more popular as the prize pools for the top players start hitting professional sports levels. For example, Dota 2 has an annual world championship called The International. Dota 2 The International 2021 had a prize pool of $40 MILLION (yes, that is US Dollars!). To put that in perspective, the ICC T20 World Cup, one of the biggest fixtures in the cricketing calendar and one of the world’s most highly bet on sports, has a total prize pool of US$5.6 million.

The winning team at the ICC T20 World Cup will receive US$1.6 million. Team Spirit, the winners of The International 2021, walked away with US$18.2 million.

And they said playing video games would not make anyone any money.

It’s easy to see why this betting market is becoming so big. But, as with any sports betting, you do need to understand the rules of the various games and also know the teams and players who are competing if you want to place an educated bet.

Unlike a win/place on horse racing or soccer in Virtual Sports, e-Sports have a much larger and more varied offering. The most popular e-Sports at online betting shops at the moment are:

  • Dota 2
  • Counter-Strike:GO
  • League of Legends
  • Call of Duty
  • FIFA
  • StarCraft 2
  • Valorant

These games all have different genres from sport to MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Play Games), from combat and war to sci-fi space opera.

e sports soccer
League of Legends e sports
Valorant e sports

Where do players find these innovative betting options?

Most sports betting sites worth their books will have both a Virtual Sports and an e-Sports lobby. Some have them under a Virtual or Virtual Sports tab and an e-Sports tab but others have them under a specific provider like Ezugi.

No matter where these gems are placed, Virtual Sports offer punters a very cool alternative to traditional betting if only because the RNG nature of Virtual Sports means no team, player, or horse dominates every event (as often happens in real sports, just look at New Zealand’s dominance of world rugby over the years).

But the digital opportunities truly shine in the e-Sports arenas.

The sheer numbers in terms of money and spectators (yes, hard as it may be to believe, there are thousands of spectators watching gamers play video games via streaming and even in person at arenas) are opening up previously overlooked opportunities for sports fans and sports bettors all over the world. The players need all the attributes of traditional athletes: skill, talent, dedication, focus, perseverance, and even a little bit of luck if they want to be victorious.

And that just makes the stats and the knowledge all the more important for sports bettors.

Next time you visit your favourite online bookie, take a look at what’s happening in the e-Sports lobby. You may be surprised at just how much fun it is.

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