FIFA on the Esports Landscape

Despite becoming a billion-dollar industry with millions of enthusiasts, esports continues to occupy a space of obscurity. Put simply, esports is online competitive gaming; just as sports teams play together, so do esports teams. With the proliferation of esports teams, it should therefore come as no surprise that the phenomenon continues its crusade to completely assimilate into the mainstream entertainment arena. Today, we will provide an overview of EA Sports’ involvement in the progression of the FIFA esports landscape.

Over the past weekend, we saw the beginning of the preliminary FUT Champions Cup round, the Weekend League. Unlike previous years, FUT Champions Verification status will be granted to those players that win 27 of their 30 fixtures, subsequently reducing the number of games to be played in the weekend by 10. The players that proceed will compete in a series of online weekend tournaments, eventually progressing to live event tournaments in 2019. The top 60 players from both PS4 and XBOX One will earn their place in the FIFA 19 Global Series Playoffs. For the players, this will be their last shot to earn points for the FIFA eWorld Cup (FeWC). Of these 60 players, 16 will progress through to the FeWC where the undisputed champion of FIFA 19 will be crowned.

With the Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1, and the MLS franchising their own esports leagues, there was definitely a major player missing from the party. A recent partnership between EA Sports and the Premier League led to the arrival of the inaugural ePremier League (ePL) tournament, which is due to kick off in January 2019. The ePL, hosted by esports organisers Gfinity PLC, will provide FIFA players based in the UK with an opportunity to represent their favourite Premier League club; a truly historical feat for esports. The ePL will be listed as an Official League Partner of the EA Sports FIFA 19 Global Series; performing well in the ePL will reward players with valuable FIFA 19 Global Series Points. On Thursday 28 and Friday 29 March 2019, London will host the Finals. For the first time ever, it will be broadcasted live on Sky Sports and Premier League social media channels. Not to detract from this progress, but one can’t help but feel that this move, whilst fundamental for gamers, does not have their sole interest at heart. More, it appears that there are underlying financial motivations for Gfinity. These traditional methods of centralised broadcasting, implemented on a very much innovative landscape seems illogical for the progressive nature of esports.

The inclusion of the PL on the esport landscape will be mutually beneficial for all parties concerned, greatly enhancing [both the players and spectators’ experience. It has long been regarded as the most popular league in the world; thus a unity between the two naturally fuels the exciting prospect of competitive FIFA, and esports, generally. A big component of IG, as evidenced through our Lite Paper, and generally our vision, will be to eventually implement Licensed Partner qualification methods for the FIFA Global Series.

To date, Gfinity PLC is the only organisation responsible for these Partner Competitions. Our platform, and strategic esports partnerships will put us in a strong position in not only becoming an official Licensed Partner, but one that is determined to ensure players are rewarded for the value they add to the online competitive gaming.

Generally speaking, the future of esports is tantalising; huge traditional sports clubs and leagues are looking for innovative ways to reach out to the younger audience. Game publishers, like EA Sports, are paying serious attention to the progression of esports as they strive to make their games major esport titles. FIFA is a forerunner in the “e-football” market, with extensive licensing deals across the football landscape. Their strategic partnerships with professional football leagues around the world will be integral to expanding their FIFA Global Series ecosystem as well as their competitive gaming reach. Gone are the days of seemingly pointless hours spent on FIFA with very little tangible benefits. EA Sports, through their partnerships with football leagues, and exciting esports organisations like IG, will present grassroots gamers with an opportunity for growth. We look forward to adding value to this sub-ecosystem of the vast esports landscape.

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