In a landmark move for esports, the BBC has partnered with EA to bring the FIFA 21 Global Series EU Qualifiers to a wider audience, leveraging the BBC iPlayer and web services to reach as many viewers as possible. While the BBC has broadcasted content centered around DOTA and League of Legends in the past, this marks a considerable first where FIFA is concerned. For almost three decades, FIFA has been the world’s most popular football title, and it has been a staple sports title in the esports world since 2004 when the inaugural FIFA Interactive World Cup took place.
However, it is only in recent years that the world’s top broadcasters have started picking up esports events, with the more traditional mediums of Twitch and YouTube being the de-facto viewing options. This partnership will likely be a massive win for the BBC, considering an overwhelming number of FIFA’s fans and top competitors reside in the United Kingdom. While COVID-19 impacts traditional sporting events, watching a high-octane, intense FIFA face-off makes for a suitable alternative.
EA has confirmed that three opening regional qualifiers will take place: West Asia, South America, and of course, Europe. However, it is only the European branch that will be broadcasted across BBC’s platforms, with up to eight hours of content a day being distributed. In an almost predictable move, EA has opted to play out the competition on the leading platforms of the ‘last generation’, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It’s a unique scenario, especially considering the overwhelming majority of esports tournaments are played on PC, these days.
Although, it’s not exactly a clear-cut scenario, as the Oceania, East Asia, and the West Asia & South Africa regions are restricted to only the PlayStation 4 platform. In a statement posted regarding the competition format, EA’s League Operations Manager, Rushan Shekar, said:
With only 15 – 40 FUT Champions Verified players on Xbox One in each of these regions, we are consolidating competition into the PlayStation 4 which has historically had a larger number of FUT Champions Verified Players. Europe, North America, and South America will continue to have tournaments on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles.
EA hasn’t confirmed how they will approach a potential issue in the competitors in these restricted regions not having a PlayStation 4 console.
The Global Series competitors are fighting for their share of a massive $3 million prize pool. There’s a desperate call for high-class competitive FIFA action, as last year’s FIFA eWorld Cup was canceled owing to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. EA was also forced to cancel the 2020 FUT Champions Cup, making the decision to distribute the prize pools evenly amongst disappointed competitors.
Ultimately, FIFA remains EA’s most popular title where the esports industry is concerned, and the partnership with the BBC is set to work wonders for the FIFA 21 Global Series as a whole. As the industry expands exponentially, we could certainly see more esports tournaments being brought to traditional broadcasting platforms, but for now, we’ll settle for a bit of FIFA. If you’re interested in catching some gameplay, the FIFA 21 Global Series BBC coverage starts on the 20th of February.