FIFA: The Dark Horse in Esports

FIFA 17 Game Cover

Why EA’s most iconic football game is a dark horse in the industry

Marco Reus
Marco Reus – Courtesy of EA Sports

FIFA Football may not be the first game that comes to mind in the conversation of esports, but it’s certainly an underrated one. Football clubs such as Sporting Club, VfL Wolfsburg and Manchester City have all signed professional FIFA players (other professional clubs involved in esports can be read here). But it seems many major esports organisations cannot see its potential.

This is surprising, as delving into other esports titles can hold much higher financial risk. Games such as League of Legends, Overwatch and Counter Strike: Global Offensive require a team to manage. There are many disadvantages to this such as language barriers, personality clashes and extra financial outgoings. FC Schalke were the first professional club to get stung after investing in League of Legends. The German club lost a huge amount of money after their team got demoted from the European League Championship Series (EU LCS) to the Challenger Series. Despite this the club are determined to soldier on. Whereas FIFA requires investment into only one player and relies on tournaments for ROI. It is an easy way for the football clubs to test the waters before investing into other more popular esports titles.

Viewership

Viewership numbers are always high for FIFA with around three million hours watched on Twitch.tv each month. Popular streamers, “Castro_1041” and “Nick_28t” lead the way for the games viewing numbers via the game streaming service. Youtubers such as “KSI” and “Zerkaa” play FIFA on a regular basis both with respectable subscription counts. Whilst the numbers are good, they are inconsiderate of the football game’s competitive scene. Currently FIFA’s competitive scene has much lower viewing numbers in comparison. (Research competitive viewership numbers for FIFA 16).

Growing competitive scene

FIFA’s competitive scene is still on the rise, which could be reason for major organisations’ disinterest. However, now is the time to take investing in professional FIFA player into serious consideration. Previously no concern was expressed by FIFA about driving their game forward as an esport. But recently the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino spoke publicly about the potential it has going forward.

As the world of gaming expands, FIFA has a tremendous opportunity to mimic production of global events on the pitch with enhanced production of virtual FIFA competitions. To investigate the benefits and feasibility of expanding FIFA’s engagement in esports, FIFA will commission a working group to consider its forward-looking strategy.”

Dark horse potential

FIFA as an esport for the future, holds a lot of potential. This is extremely potent within the younger generation. The game’s simplicity is what puts it ahead of other esports games. Other esports titles like League of Legends and Dota 2 can be very confusing and tedious to a newcomer. Competitive League of Legends is proof as viewing numbers fall. Additions of new champions require continuous study to keep up with. Counter Strike: Global Offensive is also not as easy to understand, with included acts of violence and an age restriction. Whereas FIFA, has none of the above. It is a game the majority of the world understand the concept of. Parents needn’t be concerned with their child playing/watching the game. It will easily capture new viewers that may not have played FIFA beforehand. In addition to this the scene would not be difficult to follow as there are only a single players to focus on. FIFA’s new working group can drive the competitive side of the game. The beautiful game can be an interesting dark horse to emerge into the industry.  

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