This year the FIFA Interactive World Cup champion, Mohamad Al-Bacha, won £20,000 for his hard fought victory in New York City in March. In the 2017 finale the victor will pocket £200,000.
Other esports communities have long looked down their noses at FIFA’s competitive gaming scene, and perhaps rightly so with a lack of infrastructure, competitions and prize money, but times it seems may be a-changing.
In August EA’s competitive gaming division committed to investing $1.3m (£999,000) in enhancing and expanding FIFA’s competitive gaming.
Some news was revealed about the FIWC final this week. In addition to the revelation of the 100% increased prize pot, it was also confirmed that the final will be held in London, England and that there would be a new format via the inaugural FIFA Interactive Club World Cup.
This means of course that FIWC 2016 runner up, West Ham’s Sean ‘Dragonn’ Allen, will be on home turf. The current champion meanwhile, Al_Bacha, tweeted his disappointment on Monday that he had not received an invite to 2017 and would have to go through the qualification process.
Al-Bacha played a game against fellow pro Wolfsburg’s Benedikt ‘SaLZ0r’ Saltzer at the launch of FIFA 17 at the new FIFA Museum in Zurich, Switzerland on Monday. Al-Bacha said: “FIFA 17 really is amazing – it’s much more difficult that the old one though so you need to be more skilled rather than lucky, which is a good thing.
“It was a wonderful experience for me to play in front of these spectators and on these giant screens at the FIFA Museum’s sportsbar. It’s something that I don’t get to experience every day and it was even more special because we were here in the home of football history.”
FIFA 17 will be released and available worldwide from Thursday 29 September, and it’s with this title that even more traditional sports clubs are expected to get involved in the scene.
The representation of traditional football clubs is expected to be greater at the FIWC 2017 than many would expect. Esports Observer reported this week that in addition to the likes of Man City, Wolfsburg, Sporting Lisbon, West Ham and others with a documented FIFA pro on their books, teams including PSG, Genoa, PSV Eindhoven, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have also been invited to the the FIWC 2017.
Is there something they’re not telling us? There have been rumours of PSG and PSV Eindhoven getting involved in the esports space for some time, and this lends much credence to them. The reason for traditional clubs launching into esports can be rightly summed up in one word; engagement.
Last year’s FIWC final was broadcast in over 100 countries, reached an audience of close to 5m and generated 40m comments on social media. Granted these comments weren’t all positive but it is, undeniably, being talked and debated about. Youtubers such as Spencer Owen, of Spencer FC, and KSI have created established businesses and huge followings off the back of posting FIFA related video content.
What EA Sports now wants is to make a successful transition into competitive gaming, and begin to generate even a fraction of the hype that the likes of League of Legends and Dota 2’s esports scenes do. The big money involvement, not to mention the structural loyalty, of clubs such as Real Madrid entering this space would give this bid an incalculable boost.
Imagine a FIFA based El Clásico being timed in conjunction with the build up to the ‘real’ thing on a Sunday evening; it’d mean yet another boost on social and engagement with a demographic which is drifting further and further away from television.
Much has changed in the latter half of 2016, and will continue to change in the build up to the next FIWC. EA Sports committed a chunk of money to FIFA esports and, significantly, EA Sports signed an extended deal with the Premier League to become the EPL’s Lead Partner going forward.
2017 will be a telling year in how much potential the FIFA competitive gaming scene truly has.
Esports Insider says: This overall injection of cash, a far tastier prize pot for the FIWC 2017, the involvement of some major traditional football clubs and the location of the final in football’s true home of London should ensure the Interactive World Cup gets a lot more attention this year.
This can only be good news for FIFA’s competitive gaming scene, and esports as a whole, going forward.