I’ve spent a lot of time working with startups in the eSports industry over the last few years, as it has grown from a peculiar novelty to a major standalone industry attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and sponsorship and coverage from mainstream media outlets. As its fan base has skyrocketed, so too has interest from gambling operators. Yet so far clear leaders in the eSportsbook space are yet to emerge. Is it because the key players are taking too traditional an approach?
One of the best pieces of advice I have been given so far on eSports betting came from an entrepreneur I met in Macau at the iGaming Asia Congress. He argued that too many operators were trying to get their traders versed in competitive computer gaming, when what they should be doing is getting gamers versed in trading. The passion has to come first.
Since then I’ve come across mounting evidence that he was right. There are so many variables in eSports that could impact on winning odds and are yet to be fully understood. The only people who have any hope of keeping up are ‘born and bred’ gamers. By way of example, consider this: the difference between red and blue. Although such simple colour differentiators aren’t used for teams in Counter Strike or DotA 2, two of the biggest competitive games, it is common in several other online games such as League of Legends and Halo 4. This isn’t just trivia; it turns out team colour can affect the way a team plays and therefore their chances of winning.
A test carried out by TheSkepticalStatistician on games of Halo 4 had an interesting outcome. Results from 136 games of multiplayer Halo 4 were analysed and showed that red teams had a 55% winning chance whereas blue had just 45%. That study is limited, however, by its sample: it is difficult to determine if there were other factors impacting the balance of player skill, and the sample size isn’t large enough for significant confidence.
Luckily, it isn’t the only study. In 2014, the Daily Dot conducted an experiment on the game League of Legends in which they observed a full season of the League Championship Series where only the best of players compete. This meant they were able to observe 224 games in which players were roughly evenly matched in skill. The findings were fascinating; for every 3 games Reds won, Blues won 4 – the opposite result of that found in the Halo study.
In League of Legends (or LoL) The main aim of the game is to destroy the enemy base’s tower, but there are also secondary objectives that grant your team various resource advantages. Overall, the study found the Blue teams demonstrated a more team-driven strategy, making decisions early on in the game that have longer-term benefits such as destroying enemy defence towers. Meanwhile, in aggregate the Red teams went for shorter-term objectives with higher risks associated with them.
The results demonstrate that Blues implement a longer-term strategy, considering their actions for later gameplay. Reds on the other hand are higher risk takers, implementing a higher risk, but higher reward strategy than the blues. The differences in early-game strategy highlighted by the study are even more marked than the differences in win rates. This article provides a further break-down of the results for those who are interested.
So do the Halo and LoL studies invalidate each other? It’s not that simple, because it seems colour affects different types of games in different ways. Halo 4 is a First Person Shooter, a very fast-paced game that relies heavily on instant decision-making and fast reactions very similar to the Call of Duty franchise; League of Legends is a game that relies a lot on strategy and has secondary objectives that teams must take into consideration as their completion can put a team back into the lead.
A paper called ‘Exciting red and competent blue: the importance of color in marketing’ from the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science states the following: “The color red can be linked to excitement as it is considered an arousing, exciting and stimulating color…It is generally associated with the characteristics of activity, strength, and stimulation” it further says “Research has consistently shown that longer wavelength hues (e.g., red, orange, yellow) induces states of arousal and excitement”.
Arguably, this sort of behaviour is very beneficial in a first-person shooter like Halo 4 as an individual’s senses are heightened resulting in faster reaction time, unfortunately this excitement makes a person more inclined to make an impulse decision. It’s the same reason ‘Sale’ signs always have a red background! Blue, on the other hand, “is linked to competence, as it is associated with intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency, duty and logic”. This is clearly the sort of associations a team in League of Legends wants to have.
So if you want to win at a fast-paced, guns blazing game, then red is your colour. Are you playing a game that relies on cooperation and teamwork? Then blue is the better choice.
Professional league players are undoubtedly aware of the effect of colour, but that doesn’t stop it having an effect. Colour does have an impact on your mind-set and during a fast-paced game the cumulative marginal differences this can make to decision making can really rack up.
This is exactly the sort of thing that energises gamers, who will debate it at length. It is a question of passion and you can’t expect a soccer or hockey trader to just pick this sort of thing up. If operators want to win in the world of eSports, they have to embrace nuances like the impact of colours just as well as a traditional trader might know the details of a soccer star’s past injury record.