EA Sports’ Fifa football franchise is becoming the arena where pro sports are joining forces with eSports, and major broadcasters, brands and clubs all want a piece of the action.
There has been a paradigm shift in football, where video games were once a threat to matchday attendances, clubs are now signing up proficient gamers with a furor reminiscent of a heated transfer deadline day.
Fifa was first launched in 1994. It was only in the last year, however, that clubs started to see value in supporting people who are good at the game.
Michael Valentine of eSports event organizer Gfinity says that backing from clubs like VFL Wolfsburg, Manchester City, West Ham United, Roma, PSV Eindhoven or Sporting Lisbon means the scene is set to get “bigger and bigger”. Soon there will be so much endorsement that legitimate Fifa eSports tournaments could run in tandem with World Cups and Champions League fixtures.
He says: “EA Sports has come out and said it is going to do bigger tournaments. It requires publisher and developer support of any game to become a highly competitive title in eSports. Fifa has a massive opportunity because everyone loves football and once we’ve got developer support there’s no reason we won’t see the prize pool doubling and trebling as the years go on.”
The prediction seems prophetic and Sam Cooke, editor of eSports Insider, agrees that the prize pool is increasing at an unfeasible rate. The Fifa Interactive World Cup offered a kitty of around $25,000 in 2016. In 2017 this increased to $300,000 – real bait for anyone considering quitting their day job and going professional.
Even as the head of an eSports publication, Cooke admits Fifa wasn’t really under his microscope until “football started to move in” and sign and support the best players. Finally the much-maligned gaming medium was a worthy investment of time and resources from clubs."
For more insight check out The Drum’s eSports documentary eSports: Football Rebooted above or read the full feature as it originally ran in The Drum magazine. To subscribe and get access to more great content, sign up here.