It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a strange one. It should have been a year of prosperity and positive change, but instead it’s been a year of fear and paranoia, a year in which buzzwords like “social distancing” and “flatten the curve” have become the norm and you can’t read a newspaper without seeing the word “unprecedented”.
Some of the biggest changes that 2020 has forced on the world have been in the sports and gaming sectors, with the former suffering immensely and the latter enjoying a veritable boom. From March 2020, and until just a couple of months ago, the entire sporting world shut down, with everything from major soccer tournaments to the Olympic Games being cancelled or suspended.
In their desperation for sporting action, many fans turned to the internet, and this led to a surge in the popularity of virtual sports, including virtual baseball. Huge sums of money have been invested into these games during the last 6 months and they’ve witnessed more traffic and innovations during this period than they had for several years prior.
What is Virtual Baseball?
Virtual baseball is basically a video game that you can bet on. Many of the recent advancements in virtual gambling technology have been in the graphical department, seeing these games transform from old-school, grainy, and repetitive simulations to something resembling a previous generation AAA title.
There is no player participation, but you can bet on every inning and on the outcome of the game. And just like the real MLB season, every game forms part of a league, with a full fixture list and schedule that fans can follow through their computers or devices.
These games are available on multiple online casinos and sportsbooks and have also been a major feature in Las Vegas casinos. Pretty much any standard bet that you can place in a real baseball game can also be placed in a virtual one.
How Does Virtual Baseball Work?
Virtual baseball games utilize a series of algorithms and a random number generator to determine the outcome. It is similar to the technology used in most games of Roulette, but while Roulette RNGs only focus on a single number, with all outcomes weighted equally, there are a few more things to consider with virtual baseball.
For instance, the algorithm will contain team data to determine the likelihood of one team beating another, and to account for the size of the victory.
In Roulette, the RNG is designed to replicate the random drop of a ball. There is just as much chance of it landing on Black as there is Red, and the likelihood of Odd or Even is also the same. With virtual baseball, betting on the favorite is like betting on Red when half of the Blacks have been removed from the wheel.
It’s random and players are guaranteed a fair chance, but as with any casino game, it’s still weighted in the house’s favor. This is done by tweaking the payout so it is always less than the odds. For instance, if you’re betting on a coin flip, the odds are 50:50, which equates to a payout of 1 to 1 or 2.00, but casinos are more likely to offer odds of 1.90 or 1.86, so that when all bets are settled, they will profit regardless of the outcome.
The player can still win if luck is on their side, but in the long-term, when all players and all bets are factored into the equation, the house never loses.
What is the Future of Virtual Baseball?
Before 2020, virtual sports were limited to online casinos and sports betting sites, and often played to an audience of several hundred or several thousand at any given time. But over the last year, we’ve seen them leave their virtual bubble and enter a wider world, with huge TV streams and online events.
Some of the best examples have been in the sport of horse racing. In lieu of the 2020 Kentucky Derby, a virtual race was run (the real one ran several months later without fans). It featured 13 winners of the US Triple Crown and was eventually won by Secretariat, raising over $2 million for a relief effort. It gave horse racing fans something to watch on their devices and televisions, and it allowed gamblers to wager bets all over the world.
In the UK, the historic Grand National horse race also went virtual, and in this case, it attracted even more activity. The Grand National is watched by around 10% of the UK population, most of whom also place a bet. It’s a race that attracts all sorts, and for many bettors, it will be the only time of the year they wager any money.
When the 2020 Grand National was cancelled, a virtual race was arranged instead, and while the results were not official, that didn’t stop millions of spectators and punters from taking part.
We saw something similar happen with boxing, when the World Boxing Super Series simulating fights using the Fight Night computer game, attracting masses of spectators across social media and being reported on by the world’s biggest news sites.
For the most part, these virtual efforts were afterthoughts. They were there to raise money for organizers and to keep fans happy. However, the popularity of these events, combined with the rise of eSports, proves that there is a market for virtual sports and that bodes well for the future of virtual baseball.