“This year, I wont say that things can’t get any crazier. Because the last time I did, it was at the end of 2020, and then we got 2021 served”. That was a statement made by Amir Mirzaee, Bayes Esports’ COO & Managing Director, as he set out plans to ‘go in hard’ to grow the business.
Speaking to SBC News, Mirzaee lists his standout moments from the last 12 months before explaining how Bayes Esports plans to remain in the ‘number one spot’ for esports data.
SBC: We’re a month into 2022 – what were the standout moments from last year?
AM: 2021 was a rough year for the events industry. I can’t stress enough how much respect I have for our partners Riots, the ESL, the Beyond the Summits and OGAs in particular, but really also for everyone else that is scrambling to bring joy to our lives in pandemic times and that give it their all to keep things going.
Standout moments for me. The League of Legends Worlds of Riot were meant to unite 80,000 fans of the sport live in China as the grand finale of the annual world championship. These annual mega events take two full years to plan. Two months prior to the event, the Chinese authorities had to pull the plug on the gig.
Within just two months, Riot moved the event to Iceland. What a disaster this would have been for the community, had they not gone above and beyond to make it happen. To us, this would have been very painful as well of course. With Riot as our exclusive live game data partner, the Worlds are one of our absolute top events of the year.
Second runner up, BLAST Premier CS:GO Fall Finals 2021, even though they aren’t a partner of ours. Almost brought me to tears, standing among 8,000 fans of the sport, in Copenhagen, live. I had forgotten what it feels like to have that much energy and passion channeled. Much respect, once more, for pulling this off while acting under so much regulatory uncertainty.
SBC: What key lessons have you taken from 2021? And how will these shape your strategy in the next 12 months?
AM: I started into 2022 on New Year’s Eve saying “this year, I wont say that things can’t get any crazier. Because the last time I did it was at the end of 2020, and then we got 2021 served”. Even though we managed to still grow by 50%, 2021 was nuts and tough in many ways. At Bayes, it reminded us how important it is to focus on core business and key relationships instead of venturing too far in times of uncertainty.
We are in the very fortunate situation to be the market leader with incredible relationships to our exclusive content partners and with amazing clients such as bet365, Pinnacle, Kambi, Google, and 150 more brands. From our perspective, there is endless opportunity in the esports data market these days, but channeling our resources was mission critical.
Now in 2022, we’ll go through the roof. We feel that we’re at a turning point Covid policy wise and we’ll go in hard.
SBC: Last year, you set out plans to remain in the esports industry highlighting that “staying in the number one spot can be harder than getting there”. How do you plan to stay in this leadership position in 2022?
AM: That’s a smart thing to say. And it couldn’t be more true. Shooting for the number one spot is easier than keeping it. You wouldn’t believe the measures that our competition is taking to get a bigger piece of the pie. Be it offering ludicrous amounts for partnership deals or just making false claims in terms of content and services. If running a sustainable business is not your main concern for the moment, there is much opportunity to take others down with you.
Fending our competition off is keeping us on our toes. And that’s a good thing.
As for 2022, we want to strengthen our core business around exclusive commercialization and distribution of League of Legends, DOTA2 and CS:GO live game data. Going by our insights, we hold exclusive worldwide licenses to over 70-80% of the content that is relevant for legitimate esports betting. By 2023, we want that to be over 90%. We want to be the one stop data shop for the esports ecosystem, including but not limited to betting.
Then, we’re working hard to get the second – and maybe third – game publisher live in terms of an official data offering. Mind that our partnership with Riot Games is still the only official data offering in the market, catering to their digital ecosystem. We need to change that, and fast.
And then, it’s just a lot about industry education and I keep saying that the exposure that we get at SBC events and through the content play a solid role in Bayes reaching decision makers in the industry and raising awareness for why our offering is critical for their business in the long run. I’m sure it’ll show one day and we’ll even win an industry award for our tireless work.
SBC: What opportunities does the US market present for Bayes Esports going forward? Can we expect the esports sector to grow even further as more states begin to open up?
AM: Any conceivable lever is driving growth in esports these days. The general esports fan base is expanding exponentially, the target group is aging and expanding, and with that the average esports fan has more available income. Within the industry monetization construct, esports betting plays a big role, driven not just by a rapidly expanding content offering, but also by loosening regulation. It is the opposite of any other sports ecosystem currently. The esports industry is still at the beginning of going 10x over the next five to 10 years.
In that context, we’re laid back. The US offers incredible opportunities as markets open up, but the development is complex, regulations are handled state by state and very fragmented.
Eventually, we’ll partner with a handful of big partners, who will need to offer esports betting based on an official data stream. Since that is exclusive to Bayes, we’re waiting to see who manifests as top prospects here.
SBC: And finally, if you had to set out three goals that you would like to achieve in the next 12 months, what would they be?
AM: I’d say we’ve got our work cut out for us. Firstly, we’re looking to cement our market position on the content partnerships side. Horizontally, where we’re currently the only player to enable an official data offering with a game publisher, we’d like that to be three by early 2023. Vertically, we’re looking to be able to serve over 95% of top DOTA2, LoL and CS:GO content out of one hand. To get there, we just need to focus on what got us here and follow our trajectory. But we also have a couple of really exciting announcements up our sleeves that touch on a new business field, namely infrastructure services.
Secondly, we’re looking to complete our profile of top betting operators and B2B providers in the space. Esports is way past beyond being a niche sport and operators are playing catch up. We’re doubling down both on strategic partnerships on the scale of Sportradar, as well as that we’re heavily investing further into our betting product stack and infrastructure. Our goal is to be the central point for content providers, service providers and content consumers. We’re looking to take a big step into the direction of an open ecosystem.
And then thirdly, we’d like to be even more active in the integrity space. We feel the space needs some fresh impulses and see it as our job to play an even bigger part in connecting all participants of the ecosystem. Transparency and integrity have never been more important than now that esports is playing in the big leagues. We have to show that we can be better than traditional sports in that way.