EA have made significant strides in the last two years as they look to grow FIFA into the eSports market. The launch of FUT Champions signaled intentions to create a much more competitive environment online, and while fairly successful, EA have much more potential with their football title.
The strides made are identifiable by comparison in the FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC) prize money from 2016 and 2017. Last year, ‘Al-Bacha’ took home $20,000 after his victory in the FIWC – 10x less than ‘HugeGorilla’ who won $200,000 this year.
In addition, the total prize-money awarded advanced expeditiously from 2016-2017: $114,943 to $1.399million. While not on par with some of the gaming industries bigger professional titles like Dota 2 and League of Legends, FIFA’s progress is respectable.
— LXG (@lxgesports) September 15, 2017
VfL Bochum recently became the latest professional football club to enter the FIFA eSports market. The second-tier German team join a whole host of other professional teams who have expanded from the real pitch to the virtual one – including teams like Paris Saint-Germain, A.S. Roma, VfL Wolfsburg and Schalke 04.
Given the potential of FIFA as an eSport, it makes plenty of sense to get started early, in what would be a relatively cheap investment for football clubs of such stature. After all, the attraction of representing a football club on a game that you enjoy playing is more than enough for the majority of high-level players to not require an extortionate salary – at least for now anyway.
FIFA Pro Clubs
Not saying the sites are bad in anyway. But to have regional and worldwide events on clubs would be amazing
I'd love to watch 11vs11
— Bateson87 (@bateson87) September 7, 2017
Are EA maximizing their potential? Unlike some other eSports titles, FIFA has the flexibility for EA to develop their game in countless ways. ‘Pro Clubs‘ mode for example which enables teams to play from 2 to 11 players, and given that football is a team sport on the real pitch, it makes most sense that eventually, ‘Pro Clubs‘ will be FIFA’s biggest eSports development.
Whether it’s 11v11 or 5v5, both would make a much better spectacle than a 1v1. Moreover, the most successful eSports games are team-based – EA should be looking to follow in the footsteps of those who have already shown the blueprint for success in the eSports industry.
Effectively, by focusing on competitive FIFA through ‘Pro Clubs‘, we could see the emergence of the FIFA equivalents of teams like SK Telecom from League of Legends. eSports teams would be required to expand their rosters, creating much more attention as high-level players are signed – we could start to see some of the things that EA spoke about in 2008 when launching ‘Pro Clubs’ become a reality.
“Longer term I see the time when you have managers, an economy system whereby you might be able to buy or sell real human players online and have contract with clubs, where playing FIFA becomes an alternate reality to the real world of football.”
David Rutter (EA) in 2008.
Has there been any movement towards this already?
While EA themselves haven’t moved towards creating an environment to produce an “alternate reality to the real world of football”, other online websites have made steps towards providing that for the FIFA community.
Most notably, forums like FVPA (FIFA Virtual Pro Organisation) and VFL (Virtual Football League) have been paramount in creating a solid competitive environment for ‘Pro Clubs’ – but last year saw the rise of the Virtual Football Organisation (VFO). Interestingly, the VFO has been actively seeking to get professional football clubs involved with FIFA.
— Veo Noticias (@VeoNoticias_) May 2, 2017
The website which began in Spain managed to get many professional eSports teams involved from football clubs based in La Liga Santander like Sevilla, Valencia, Villarreal and Real Sociedad to name a few, to eSports teams like Philips HUE and Lenovo Legion.
As more professional clubs join, interest in ‘Pro Clubs‘ will grow exponentially. Not only does an eSports focus on the game mode give more players the opportunity to represent a highly reputable team, it bridges the gap between the real and virtual football world.
Effectively, the possibilities are endless if EA decide to utilize a mode which best represents real football. FIFA provides the platform for clubs to compete on more than one level – which is why it makes perfect sense for more clubs to join up once they see that they will be competing with rivals.
Overall, Whilst 1v1 is still fun for fans to watch, EA shouldn’t settle on this when FIFA has so much potential. Ideally for ‘Pro Clubs‘, a time will come when the mode is the primary focus for eSports – but this can only happen if professional teams continue to jump aboard.
From real life football clubs, eSports teams and even YouTube clubs, the excitement from the potential growth should be more than enough to get more players involved and create a platform which could soon rival even the best competitive gaming titles.