A Chat with Bayes’ Mark Balch: ‘Economically, esports runs off the promise of growth’

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Head of Products and Partnership at Bayes, Mark Balch

Pictured: Mark Balch, Head of Product & Partnerships. Photo credit: Bayes

Mark is an esport maven and has been in the betting industry for over a decade. At Bayes his expertise will drive the vision behind our products and be the go-to guy for cooperations and partnerships.

Q: You are a new company created by two big industry players – DOJO Madness and Sportradar. It must all be very new to you, but do you already have a clear purpose and strategy about your future growth and expansion?

Bayes provides media customers, betting companies, esports organizers and more with reliable data solutions, analytics, probabilities and visualizations – backed up by our very own machine learning algorithms. We want to be the One-Stop-Shop for Esports data – for right holders (tournament organisers), data consumers (bookmakers, media) and service providers.

Economically, esports runs off the promise of growth, just like many other industries. – Mark Balch

Q: The data distribution deal with Riot Games is certainly a landmark achievement. How do you think access to more data would help us regular fans, i.e. the people who tune in to watch for the sake of pleasure?

Bayes is transforming raw game data from League of Legends esports competitions into a common format and delivering them to data consumers. This partnership will revolutionise access to League of Legends esports data, enabling the community, betting companies and third-party operators to create a wide array of services and products, bolstering the sport ecosystem.

Q: We don’t have the hard evidence to back the claim, but our impression at GamblingNews is that esports betting doesn’t generate as much profit to sportsbooks. How do you feel about this and do you see a growth trajectory where the wagers placed on esports could one day beat mainstream sports competitions, in terms of total sports handle that is.

Economically, esports runs off the promise of growth, just like many other industries. While it is obvious to say that esports cannot match traditional sport, 20 years ago it practically did not exist and is now a thriving multi-billion dollar industry. We strongly believe in the future of esports and competitive video games, and as the gaming population ages, we gain access to more wealth and better paying jobs, which will in turn increase the volume and profitability of the industry and especially betting.

At Bayes, we want to be part of the solution to the data problems. Delayed livestream collection, fragmented exclusivity, latency issues, lack of transparency and quality all hold back the esports betting product. We see a future where betting companies and other businesses can create awesome new products and experiences.

While it is obvious to say that esports cannot match traditional sport, 20 years ago it practically did not exist and is now a thriving multi-billion dollar industry. – Mark Balch

Q: Do you see mobile esports growing as popular as – for a want of a better word – ‘regular esports’ here the West, to use another broad term. Or, perhaps, it’s more a matter of what works in different regions, i.e. mobile competitive video gaming is all the rage in Asia, think Honor of Kings, but not necessarily in the United States, for example.

Fundamentally esports is the result of good video games, and the competitive human spirit. Consoles, PCs and Mobiles are simply tools that are available. Some parts of the world have access to different tools, mobiles are much easier to access in Asia especially, therefore have far greater potential – in both the video game and esports industry.

The west has grown up with PCs, and it shows no sign of being taken over by mobile esports, so I believe there will be some regional divergence. This is very common with traditional sport; Basketball, Aussie Rules, Rugby, Cricket, Ping Pong are all sports which see success in different countries and regions for different reasons.

Meet the Bayes team, from left to right: Mark Balch, Martin Dachselt, Sven Lund, Wolfgang Siebert. Photo credit: Bayes

Q: How far are we from a world in which we see an endemic esports sportsbook rival a mainstream sportsbook in terms of pure numbers? Is this even a realistic statement to make?

Firstly, I am not sure it matters. We should not measure our success by how close or far we are from traditional sports numbers – is Twitter not successful because it is not as big as Facebook? Esports will be successful, but until we live in a world where everybody has grown up playing games their whole lives (maybe 15-20 years from now), sport will have wider appeal in the foreseeable future.

Q: Do you feel that esports invite a rather young audience to place wagers? Do you think data providers also have the moral and legal obligations to help younger audiences stay clear of any betting processes before the legal age?

I believe there is no difference to sport. Kids also love football, why would that not also invite a young audience to bet? Betting companies and casinos are on the shirts of their favourite players in the Premier league. Why is this an esports only problem?

There are discussions taking place right now about regulating betting players who are under 18 in some jurisdictions. We and the betting industry have a duty of care to ensure that minors are not placing bets, and fraudulent activity is brought to attention. Otherwise everyone loses, therefore it is in everyone’s interest that we create a healthy and legal ecosystem.

Q: Do you see Bayes tying up more partnerships in future and what publishers – if you are allowed to disclose this information – do you have on your mind?

Our negotiations are very promising. Of course, we will keep you informed.

Q: What synergies do you want to achieve with your new and future partners?

We want to build relationships and technologies which solve some of the distribution problems of the esports industry. Publishers, teams and tournament organisers have valuable information about matches, players and events that they need to distribute to their fans. Right now this is a very vague and fragmented process which is entirely different for each game title. We want to build better pipelines and write standards that will ensure that media, endemic and non-endemic alike can get all the information they need as fast and reliably as possible and at the same time give tools to the organising side which help administer their operations.

We want to build relationships and technologies which solve some of the distribution problems of the esports industry. – Mark balch

Q: Can you share with us one of your boldest predictions about the future of the esports industry?

Esports is a sub-culture of the video game industry. If you look at the history of video games, the market crashed in 1983 and destroyed a lot of hope for the future. Now it is the biggest entertainment industry on earth, bigger than the box office and music combined. We see a future where new and exciting video games create their own esports culture and we see dozens of games which have an esports scene the size of Counter-strike, Dota and League of Legends are now. Video games are fundamentally fluid and ever changing, I see no reason to think that esports will be any different, so we are building to be equally flexible.

Q: After all the hard work, what are the esports titles that people play around Bayes’ HQ?

We have had big discussions within the team. I’m a League of Legends fan, but the Dota 2 and Overwatch groups are also very strong. Not always easy for me We even have a few who are looking forward to the new release of World of Warcraft Classic!

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