Virtual Sports – The Evolution of Sports Entertainment

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What are virtual sports?

Virtual sports combine video game simulations with real-world sporting statistics. Using high-quality graphics and presentation, virtual sports have become a regular source of entertainment and sports betting for many people around the world.

Where did virtual sports come from?

Virtual sports are the evolution of fantasy sports, which go back as far as the 1960s. Back then, avid sports fans could create teams of their own; their ideal fantasy team. Using real players to perform in statistical pen-on-paper matches, opponents would compete using these basic representations of their favorite sport. The earliest examples of these are golf and baseball. There were no 3D graphics to watch, or surround sound to immerse you. You simply had to use your imagination.

Nowadays, technology has advanced to the point where these statistical simulations are incredible to watch. Horses, motorcycles, cars, even greyhounds are joining the virtual sports revolution. The most popular virtual sports are football (soccer), horse racing, dog racing, motor sports, tennis, and basketball. Almost all sports have a virtual counterpart these days, and it should be easy for you to find one you enjoy.

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How do virtual sports work?

Real-world statistics generate all outcomes in virtual sport. Despite this similarity with fantasy sports, virtual sports do not require extensive knowledge of players and teams, as participants do not have to assemble a team or arrange fitness programs. All you have to do is decide on which team to support, place your bet, and off you go. You don’t have to support a team either, many virtual sports have diverse options. You could bet on how many goals will be scored, or who the ‘man of the match’ will be. 

Augmented by mobile technology and the fast pace of modern-life, virtual sports have more time for the action that all sports supporters crave. Advances in technology have allowed these virtual sports to portray their simulations of reality with the latest in graphics engine development, sound, and physics. Algorithms account for random elements, and results of matches account for as much nuance as is technically possible.

How popular are virtual sports?

With over 30 million people tuning in to watch the 2020 Virtual Grand Prix series, Formula 1 has seen major success with their virtual sport endeavours. Official F1 teams have competed in esports tournaments from as far back as 2018. Due to the pandemic in 2020, the virtual sport tournament officially replaced the Formula 1 2020 Grand Prix. The Virtual Grand Prix returns this year as the flagship esport of Formula 1.

Nascar launched their own esport and virtual sport combination, in the form of the eNascar International iRacing Series. Not only did this allow professional drivers the chance to hone their skills, the digital competition also created a way for supporters to spectate and show their appreciation for the skill on display. International Nascar drivers got the chance to qualify for the official Nascar top-three divisions, something that would arguably be impossible considering our current global lockdowns.

Another great example of growing support for virtual sports is the recent success of the ePremier League, run by the official European Premier League. With over 8 million players, prize pools, and statistics at your fingertips, there’s no doubt that virtual sports are rising in popularity. Each soccer match can be simulated with the same graphical fidelity as gaming consoles. Take a look at virtual dart games to see how far the technology has come. You would be forgiven for thinking you’re watching a live television broadcast; it really is that well done.

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Are esports the same as virtual sports?

There’s definitely a distinction to make between virtual sports and esports. It’s easy to confuse the two, and quite common to assume these terms can be used interchangeably. While virtual sports are graphic simulations using real players and statistical data, esports have video game players competing in virtual tournaments. Esports have also risen in popularity, but remain defined as a different sector, as they do not use simulations to deliver reality-based results.

Why have virtual sports become popular?

Many real-world sports would not have been able to continue this year without the remote nature of virtual sports. Virtual sports are a sign of the times we live in, where remote contact is in essence critical to our survival. With many regular sporting events being delayed or outright cancelled, virtual sports are steadily becoming regular entertainment options. Virtual sports make these public activities more accessible, and in doing so, also reduce the downtime between matches or races.

Are virtual sports for me?

While many people are hesitant to invest in virtual sports, the benefits are clear from the examples mentioned above. Pioneers are chalking out their corner of the market, and the growth of this sector doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Virtual sports are steadily increasing in revenue, combining user interaction with sporting events that can be scheduled for any time of the day. Due to the increased frequency of events, bets and engagement are seeing unprecedented growth. Virtual sports are never at the mercy of the weather, and a virtual player can’t get injured or have to sit on the bench. With the pandemic continuing, the world has had to adapt to a “new normal”. People have had to change their daily lives, and so it makes sense that sports would change in some way. The next best thing is virtual sports, and it’s certainly better than nothing.

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