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.

AS Roma Launches eSports Team and Fnatic Partnership

AS ROMA LAUNCHES ESPORTS TEAM AND FNATIC PARTNERSHIP

AS Roma Launches eSports Team With Fnatic (Photo: AS Roma)

TNL Take: The Pro Sports and eSports investment continues with one of  Italy's top Serie A teams AS Roma joining the party and the 11th partnership in 2017 so far.

2017 Pro Sports and eSports Investment (Infographic: The Next Level)

AS Roma entering eSports is slightly different than previous pro teams however:

  • Instead of launching an internal eSports division (like Paris St-Germain) or working with an agency (like VFL Wolfsburg), AS Roma partnered with top UK based team Fnatic to launch their team
  • AS Roma's first 3 FIFA Athletes are also unique as they're not just based in Italy but the US and UK as well
  • Fnatic is probably the leader in eSports merchandise with their own hardware line and even launching a London pop-up store last year. Look to the AS Roma partnership to help drive jersey sales

AS Roma's 1st 3 International FIFA Athlete's (Photo: AS Roma)

One thing that many media sites missed is that this is the 2nd Boston Celtics's involvement after Jonas Jerebko bought eSports team Renegades last year (AS Roma is owned by Celtic's Co-Owner Jim Pallotta).

Jim Pallotta's Raptor Group's Investments (Photo: Raptor)

AS Roma has already been promoting their new eSports squad with a Facebook Live stream generating almost a half million views and 50k on YouTube.

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?

AS Monaco and Epsilon Makes It Europe's 15th eSports Deal

AS Monaco eSports Athlete Makes It 15 EU Teams

AS Monaco eSports

TNL Take: When I first started tracking eSports in April, the Pro Team investment was a trickle.

Now it’s a firehouse.

AS Monaco becomes the 15th European investment in eSports by signing Nathan “Sneaky” Nayagom who will represent them for the next season.

TNL eSports Infographic 014 (Graphic: The Next Level)

This also doesn’t even include the EA’s League 1 deal or this weekend's Legia Cup.

There wasn't much info given and I hate regurgitation of a Press Release but there were some interesting details:

  • Sneaky will still be a part of Epsilon but will where the Red and White of AS Monaco - Merchandising?
  • He will already be representing AS Monaco in the Legia Cup among many other teams
  • Another great piece of intro content from a EU team introducing eSports

Like every other Pro Team that has invested in eSports, Bruno Skropeta, AS Monaco Marketing and Communication Director said this about their investment:

"eSports has a really young market which is a growing sector, and is therefore an important new step in the digital strategy of the club"

 

OK MLS your move.