If the notion of professional gamers making millions from the internet’s favourite spectator sport makes you uneasy, then you might want to look away now.
A new platform has been created that’s dedicated to allowing eSports enthusiasts to place real-money bets on games.
The Seattle-based start-up is called Unikrn, and its new gaming arena acts as a betting portal for pro-gaming, as well as a streaming site and tournament chat-room.
The company was set up by Rahul Sood, a former general manager of Microsoft Ventures.
“eSports is one of the largest sports globally, attracting viewer numbers that are on par with traditional sports such as American football and basketball,” explained Sood, speaking in an interview with GeekWire.
“We see this huge opportunity for people who spectate or watch to bet on games.”
Unfortunately, one market the company won’t be able to tap in is the United States, where online gambling remains illegal.
Unikrn says 60 per cent of its traffic comes from international (read: outside of US) markets, but says there’s still plenty to do if you’re from the states.
“It’s important that we have international traffic, but it doesn’t mean people in the US won’t be using our system,” explained Rahul Sood, the company’s co-founder.
“You can register, you can win prizes, and you’ll be able to watch and see the odds and chat. You just won’t be able to bet.”
For everyone else, bets are placed against the house, and participants can only bet on the outcome of an individual match.
Sood hopes that the majority of Unikrn’s earnings will come from the house beating the participants.
“Ads and sponsorships are a business in itself, but I think betting will explode,” he argues.
Sood added: “I just hope things don’t break and we aren’t up all night fixing it.”
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Unikrn bought out two companies in its short lifespan in order to create the community.
The first was PlayAll, acquired back in December, which is a Berlin-based betting platform.
The second is Pinion, an Australia-based start-up that operates an ad-supported eSports community, which was picked up by Unikrn in February.
Despite the acquisitions, however, Unikrn’s Seattle HQ has just 12 employees, with a futher six working internationally.
“I came from a start-up world, and then went to Microsoft and I saw that it was like to have a gigantic organisation. I want to create a company that’s really lean,” Sood said.
He continued: “I don’t believe in raising a lot of money and hiring a bunch of people. It’s a bad idea to hire a bunch of people and then hope for the best.”