FIFA's eSports Future Is Via Pro Teams

FIFA'S ESPORTS FUTURE IS VIA PRO TEAMS

FIFA 17 Regional Final (Photo: EA Sports)

FIFA 17 Regional Final (Photo: EA Sports)

TNL Take: This past year, EA Sports made serious strides with their first real full season of FIFA eSports under their Competitive Gaming Division by announcing $1.3M in prize pools (including travel/expenses).

The FIFA 17 Regionals from Paris became the 1st ever eSports program shown on ESPN's flagship channel garnering 110,000 viewers - considering it was tape delayed and shown at 6PM on Super Bowl Sunday.

TNL Infographic 040: 2017 eSports TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 040: 2017 eSports TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

At EA Play last week - EA's coming out party the weekend prior to the start of E3 - EA Sports announced some pretty big changes for FIFA 18 with the last 2 being the most crucial:

 

  • A partnership between EA and FIFA launching in Fall of this year for a year long competitive infrastructure
  • Real teams sponsoring athletes via official tournaments
  • An All-Star tournament featuring athletes signed to teams

 

FIFA 18's Grand New Plans (Photo: EA Sports)

FIFA 18's Grand New Plans (Photo: EA Sports)

This shouldn't be surprising based on EA's previous moves in the space:

 

AUGUST 2016: PSV EINDHOVEN

PSV Players Playing FIFA (Photo: PSV Eindhoven)

PSV Players Playing FIFA (Photo: PSV Eindhoven)

Eredivisie team PSV Eindhoven became the first Dutch team to become involved with eSports bypassing the "normal" route of sponsoring an athlete directly, PSV held an EA Sports FIFA 17 tournament to determine their player.

 

Further, at the time I mentioned this could be a hint of things to come:

The Next Level YYY (Photo: The Next Level)

The Next Level YYY (Photo: The Next Level)

 

JANUARY 2017: DUTCH E-DIVISIE LEAGUE

Dutch FIFA eSports League (Photo: Eredivisie)

Dutch FIFA eSports League (Photo: Eredivisie)

The E-Divisie is a partnership between Dutch football league Eredivisie, Endemol Shine Netherlands and EA Sports. The games are broadcast on Twitch, YouTube and TV via Fox Sports.

Each of the club athletes competed in 17 rounds of games of FIFA 17 Ultimate Team which determined the E-Divisie Champion, but also which club would represent Netherlands at the European level and a chance to move onto a World Championships.

Again at this time I mentioned a potential future with EA Sports driving the selection process:

The Next Level YYY (Photo: The Next Level)

The Next Level YYY (Photo: The Next Level)

This is a no brainer for EA Sports but 2 large questions remain.

 

/01 WHICH CLUBS WILL BE INVOLVED?

EA Sports did not mention which clubs would be participating at launch and did not respond when reached out for comment.  

I'd venture that it will be primarily European teams and if I had to bet on 1 club being involved: Bayern Munich. 

 

/02 IS THIS THE BEST ROUTE FOR CLUBS?

From EA's perspective, it makes absolute business sense to grab as much control over the eSports infrastructure as you can, especially when pro teams are still so very uneducated about the space. 

 

But does it make the most sense for the pro teams?

 

Here's the reason: Follow any FIFA athlete on Twitter and you will see constant gripes about the lagging, the buggy nature of the game or disconnecting before a loss - to be fair, it's common across many eSports titles. 

As the game changes every year, the previous year's "best" player may not be the current years  top rated player, which means a relative unknown could win and become a clubs official player.

Sticking with the Bayern Munich example, would the club rather find a FIFA athlete via this process with 24 Twitter followers or find someone that is both a top player, produces content and has a large social following across a variety of media?

Time will tell which soccer clubs will be most successful but you can definitely be assured of this:

 

EA NFL Madden is next.


ICYMI, here's TNL eSports Guest Podcast 005 with Paris St-Germain Head of eSports, Bora "Yellowstar" Kim.

Holland Is 3rd Country With National eSports League

Holland Is 3rd Country With National eSports League

Dutch FIFA eSports League (Photo: Eredivisie)

TNL Take: Europe has been light years ahead of the US when it comes to eSports and looks like things aren't changing in 2017.

The Dutch Soccer League, Eredivisie, is launching an EA Sports FIFA National eSports League with all 18 teams called E-Divisie. The Netherlands joins France's Orange e-LEAGUE 1 and Spain's Orange Superliga.

The E-Divisie is a partnership between the Eredivisie, Endemol Shine Netherlands and EA Sports. The games will be broadcast on Twitch, YouTube and TV via Fox Sports.

The eSports Athletes will compete in 17 rounds of games in FIFA 17 Ultimate Team which will not only determine who becomes the Champion of the E-Divisie, but also will represent the Netherlands at the European level and a chance to move onto the World Championships.

A few other takeaways:

 

  • I've spoken to a few people close to the EU FIFA Scene and here's the most interesting part: How were the Athletes chosen? Ajax already signed Koen Weijland last year. Seems as if the other 17 teams held local tournaments and chose their Athlete via that route.

 

Now which country will be next?

Ajax Becomes 13th European Pro Team eSports Investment

AJAX BECOMES 13TH EUROPEAN PRO TEAM WITH ESPORTS INVESTMENT

Ajax Becomes 13th EU eSports Investment (Photo: Ajax)

TNL Take: What a week for Pro Teams and eSports.

Somewhat lost in the 76ers eSports team purchase and the Warriors/Wizards/Dodgers purchase was Dutch team Ajax has signed top FIFA player Koen Weijland, a five-time FIFA Champion.

While Ajax becomes the first team in the Netherlands Eredivisie to sign an eSports Athlete, last month PSV Eindhoven revealed plans themselves to find someone through a FIFA 17 tournament.

Former Manchester United goalkeeper and current Ajax Director, Edwin van der Sar, had this to say of their new signing and was very telling as to why Ajax made the eSports investment:

 “We are always looking for new ways as a club to bind us to our young fans. We will be helping Koen with support not only in major tournaments, but also organizing activities with our fans. We believe it is important to encourage both digital and real football.

These two worlds can perfectly coexist and compliment each other.”