Global football governing body FIFA and computer game developer EA have officially announced plans to host the first ever FIFA eWorld Cup in 2018, it was confirmed this week.
A New Era for eSports Gaming
The concept behind this new revolutionary competition is to recreate the drama and inclusiveness of the iconic World Cup international football tournament that takes place every four years. The World Cup sees some of the greatest players on the planet and the best international teams in the world compete to decide who are the world champions.
In 2018, the World Cup will be hosted by Russia. To mark the momentous occasion and to take advantage of the boom in eSports’ popularity, FIFA and EA will schedule a series of qualifying tournaments online.
The top 128 qualifiers, half from the Xbox platform and half from the PS4 platform, will progress to FIFA 18 Global Series Play-Offs. Here they will battle to earn the right to compete in the FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final.
Qualifiers will begin in November 2017 and will be scheduled throughout the year until July 2018.
The aim is to crown an eWorld Cup champion alongside the actual World Cup champions next summer.
For the Players…
General Manager of Competitive Gaming Division at EA, Todd Sitrin, said “Last year was a pivotal achievement for competitive FIFA, engaging millions of competitors and spectators through world football [soccer] and global competition.”
He added “In partnership with FIFA, we’re accelerating the growth of competitive gaming through the EA SPORTS FIFA 18 Global Series on The Road to the FIFA eWorld Cup 2018, producing more competition, attracting more competitors and connecting with more fans than ever before.”
FIFA has already hosted a FIFA Interactive World Cup but this new tournament will give FIFA eSports gaming a new authenticity.
The added realism of FIFA 18 is certain to give the game more exposure as an eSport. It could also make it more commercially viable.
FIFA eSports – A Growing Brand
This announcement is proof of the growing brand that is FIFA on the eSports landscape. Games such as League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Dota 2 have long dominated the eSports scene.
The League of Legends World Championship in 2017 boasted a total prize pool of close to $5 million. The International 2017 saw a total prize pool hit $24 million. In comparison, the 2017 FUT Championship only generated $400,000 for its prize pool.
However, FIFA is becoming more popular online. The rise of the FIFA YouTuber and increased corporate sponsorship has brought more revenue to the eSport. Professional soccer clubs have also looked to sign professional eSports players to represent them at international competitions.
Bundesliga side Wolfsburg have their own eSports team with Benedikt Saltzer and David Bytheway representing them at tournaments. Premier League club Manchester City are another team that have snapped up eSports representation in the form of gamer Kez Brown.
Then there is also the Hashtag United eSports players. Hashtag United are a YouTube soccer team that have developed an eSports arm of their club. Players including Michael LaBelle, Agge Rosenmeier, Ivan Lapanje, Harry Hesketh, and Ryan Pessoa represent them at global tournaments.
The idea is that Hashtag United pay these players to play at these events but will then take a cut of the winnings in return. It is an approach that other clubs from around the world are looking to adopt.
Once the money from the professional clubs seeps into the eSports side of soccer, then the sky is the limit.
Soccer has set a very optimistic future for FIFA as an eSport. The latest edition of the FUT Championship was viewed by millions of people online. The proof is there that there is an appetite for FIFA as an eSport.
If FIFA and EA can continue to work together to replicate eSports equivalents of real-life football tournaments then it will give players the chance to live their dreams of playing on the big stage.
FIFA still has a long way to go before it can rival the other top eSports. Online play in FIFA still receives a lot of criticism so the developer will need to address those issues first. However, the interest and potential funding is all there for FIFA to move onto its next phase of evolution as an eSport. The first ever FIFA eWorld Cup could well be the dawn of a new age.