Opinion: Blurring the lines between virtual and reality

The launch of Betradar’s first in-play virtual sports product Virtual Tennis In-Play (VTI), which combines their real sports data with motion capture video technology, shows how far the world of virtual gaming has come.

With over eight years’ experience in virtual sports, who better to explain how the industry has, and continues to, develop than Betradar’s general manager of virtual sports, Frank Wenzig.

Advancement in technology
The younger generation relies heavily upon smartphones, and virtual sport products are brilliant for this medium. Demographics-wise the perception has completely changed. Dog and horse racing may have been popular within virtuals eight years ago, but now football is the dominant sport. On top of this you have other emerging sports, such as basketball and tennis, now in the virtual world, as well as dog and horse racing. So you need to develop these sports to create a comprehensive virtual offering for clients.

At the same time, betting on sports has also grown a lot over the past few years, partly due to technology. This means you also need to develop your virtual sports betting offering, especially as nowadays it can feel just like live betting. It has been a good way for us to expand, especially to assist our clients, considering a lot of them are in the betting world, too.

Tennis In-Play
Our business is growing, as is our competition, so there is a need to continue to show clients more valuable products. This is an important factor for us as a provider of pre-match and live betting on real sport. As such, we created Virtual Tennis In-Play to imitate the way our live in-play tennis works, with the same distribution channels, same visualisation and the same betting markets.

We examined 35,000 real tennis matches based on analysis of our real sports data, including things like player strengths and statistics. It features a full continuous tennis match, with a duration of approximately one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours. This means there is no interruption and is much closer to real tennis, with each point included, so punters have the opportunity to bet on matches just like real life. This is important to clients in the sports betting industry. The next step is to merge together the real and virtual worlds.

Virtually real
Creating the illusion where the lines are blurred between real and virtual is the trend. A key part of a good virtuals product these days is the visually entertaining component. Virtuals using motion-capture technology look much better – much more advanced and lifelike.

Before this there was behaviour simulation. The difference is that behaviour simulation looks more like an old console game, so the players didn’t look real or natural. Motion capture, however, involves using technology to capture real movements of actual people and transferring them to a 3D model. As a result, the graphics look much more lifelike. And this is exactly why we have invested in commissioning some of the best motion capture studios in the world.

Graphics are important for selling a product. From a commercial perspective, however, it’s also important that the product looks and feels like a real sport. If your offering is aimed at the betting market, where the target group is sports punters, then it is crucial that the probabilities and the resulting odds reflect the real odds. For the avid sports punter this makes a big difference.

With our Virtual Football product released earlier this year in time for the World Cup, for example, we decided to show offsides, fouls, corners, throw-ins and all sorts of details that make Virtual Football really look and feel like football. It’s not just one attack following the next attack, we spent time making it a lot more realistic. This is why our products are perceived as premium product, because the target group, the end user, the sports punter, is always kept in mind.

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