E-sports:When the Virtual Becomes Reality

Who’s excited for the 2017 World Cup? Wait, what? In August 2017, the FIFA Interactive World Cup will take place in London and will bring together all the top players from the virtual side of the game.

It will be the 13th consecutive year this tournament takes place having started back in 2004. While at that time online gaming wasn’t really big in FIFA’S games it feels that this year it will be a completely different story.

E-sports is booming. Evidence of that is the signing of top online FIFA players by some of Europe’s top clubs. The E-sports observer have created a timeline (http://esportsobserver.com/report-timeline-sports-clubs-esports/) of when and which clubs entered the E-sports market. The first club to jump on the bandwagon was Turkish side Besiktas back in January 2015. However, they dropped out of The League of Legends competition exactly after a year. The latest club to take part in E-sports is French giants PSG who went on and established a franchise.

In between, top clubs such as Manchester City, West Ham, Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Schalke 04, Wolfsburg and Sporting Lisbon all wanted a piece of the cake.

Surprisingly, it would be natural to think that football clubs that have gone into E-sports will focus on the FIFA game and competitions. Football club’s hunger doesn’t stop there and their teams and players participate in the leading online competitions such as Call of Duty and League of Legends.

The decision not to focus solely on FIFA is a great way to increase brand exposure and breakthrough to different markets. the investment in E-sports is not heavy on the club’s finances. The e-sports players do earn salaries but obviously, they are minor expenses and their main income comes from winning tournaments. The total prize money for the upcoming FIWC is 300,000$. Assuming that most the E-sports players already have the required gear and equipment to compete at the highest level since being the best is what got them to be signed by clubs.

All of those insights makes me think, do E-sports players have the potential to be the next transfer market? First of all, the talent pool is endless. If you’re good enough you’ll play, despite your age. Imagine when more and more clubs will enter the market, eventually, the top clubs will want to hold onto the best talents which will cause movements from club to club.

With popularity rising we will see more business partners, sponsors and even endorsement deals. Those factors will make the market more prestigious and prize money will increase. More competitions will be available. E-sports, and especially FIFA competitions have the potential to work in the same format of the real game. Domestic leagues, European competitions, International and regional tournaments etc.

Moreover, will we see in the future clubs with levels of E-sports within them? A senior team followed by u23’s, u21’s, u18’s and so on. Training to improve cognitive decision making and eye-finger coordination will take place if it doesn’t already. I had the pleasure to hear Duncan Alexander from Opta Stats saying that the desired profile for being an analyst in football matches is one that plays a lot of video games due to the eye-finger coordination level.

In the FIFA games, the players have limited amount of control on what happens on the virtual pitch, but there’s still a style of play for a certain player that can be identified. Will this lead to E-sports scouts?

E-sports has a lot of potential and we are only just in the beginning of it. The emergence of VR will also have an effect on the market and with the constant improvement of technology there’s no end to the heights E-sports can reach. Only the future will reveal where this goes, make sure you stay logged in.



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