FIFA esports has been with us for well over a decade. Not only have we seen the FIFA eWorld Cup growing in profile, but a number of big-money brands like Audi have started sponsoring FIFA esports teams. Despite these positive moves, there remain big questions over whether FIFA esports has what it takes to catch up to the popularity of competitive games like Dota 2, CS:GO and LoL.
FIFA is one of the world’s biggest-selling gaming franchises. As of 2018, the series had sold over 260 million copies since EA released its first incarnation of FIFA in 1993. The football simulator picked up over 45 million unique players over the course of the past year, and there have also been more than 193 million downloads for FIFA Mobile.
FIFA 19 was the biggest-selling console game in Europe last year, and EA has been quick to try and capitalize on these successes by hosting their own competitive gaming tournaments for the title.
The biggest of these is the FIFA Esports World Cup which has been in operation since 2004. The FIFA eWorld Cup 2019 grand final managed to generate a record viewership of 47 million. This was a 60% rise in comparison with the previous year, and the competition was broadcast by 21 different networks in over 75 nations.
Mohammed ‘MoAuba’ Harkous claimed the 2019 FIFA eWorld Cup title after he beat the reigning champion Mosaad ‘Msdossary’ Aldossary 3-2 in the final. The new German champion picked up a top prize of $250,000 million for his efforts.
Although all of these statistics are pretty impressive, they still lag some way behind other esports. For example, last year’s League of Legends World Championship finals managed to pick up nearly 100 million viewers which is more than double that of the FIFA Esports World Cup.
These huge viewing figures are mirrored in the fact that League of Legends is one of the world’s most popular options for esports betting. Although there are a reasonable amount of FIFA betting sites out there, it is games like LoL and CSGO that tend to be wagered on most. Plus the FIFA eWorld Cup prize pool of $500,000 pales in comparison to that of The International Dota 2 tournament that this year posted a record prize pool of over $33 million.
But as FIFA is one of EA Sport’s biggest titles, it seems that the game’s publisher have increased their efforts to make this football simulator a competitive gaming hit. EA Sports reportedly have between 300 and 400 staff working on projects for FIFA esports.
Such projects cover things from making sure that the tournaments get covered on channels like YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, BT Sport and Sky Sport, as well as ensuring that there are robust competitive gaming structures in place. Although much of the attention goes on the FIFA eWorld Cup, other tournaments like the FUT Champions Cup are hugely important for the growth of FIFA esports.
EA has worked hard with FIFA to ensure that many of football’s biggest leagues get involved with FIFA esports. Alongside last year’s inaugural ePremier League, there has also been involved from the Bundesliga, La Liga and even MLS in the USA. All of which encouraged around 20 million gamers to compete in the Champions mode at the start of the last FIFA eWorld Cup.
Such figures have proven to be very useful in getting the big money sponsorship deals that are essential if FIFA esports wants to take things to the next level. Recently we have seen the likes of Audi finalizing a sponsorship with Future FC which are the FIFA offshoot of Astralis Group. This follows on from other brands like Domino’s Pizza, Orange and Air Asia plowing significant amounts of money into FIFA esports.
Despite all of the promise of FIFA esports, there are many gamers who think that the football simulator is lacking in a few areas. Some people have speculated that FIFA is merely a ‘pay-to-win’ title that doesn’t rely on a gamer’s skill as much as other esports such as Rocket League. The fact that you can effectively buy your way to success sets FIFA apart from free-to-play titles like League of Legends and also makes working out FIFA betting odds a little trickier. In addition to this, is the fact that many football fans claim that the actual gameplay of Pro Evolution Soccer is far superior to that of FIFA.
Despite these issues, the fact that football is the world’s most popular sport and the support of football’s governing bodies should help FIFA esports become a key player on the competitive gaming scene. Although it might be dwarfed by the ‘big three’ of CSGO, LoL and Dota 2, it seems that FIFA is slowing catching up.