It was only at the beginning of August that the FIFA community applauded the victory of Mosaad ‘Msdossary’ Aldossary in the FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final. The Saudi Arabian overcame a tournament of 20 million competitors to win the $250,000 prize and the coveted trophy. Regardless, with the grand tournament finished, we begin to look towards the next one.
As far as FIFA eSports go, it’s all about playing FIFA Ultimate Team and competing in the huge qualification and tournament structure of the EA Sports FIFA Global Series and subsequent FIFA eWorld Cup. This newly introduced format was wildly popular in its inaugural 2017-18 season and is expected to be rolled out once again for FIFA 19.
But, is there more that EA Sports could, and should, be doing to involve more players and develop into an eSport?
Not a respected eSport yet
The global eSports economy is growing at an exponential rate, with the likes of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, DOTA 2, and League of Legends headlining the scene. However, even though they allow gamers to play traditional sports via consoles and PCs, EA Sports’ range of sports games aren’t considered to be fit for eSports by many.
Now, eSports is a fully recognized industry and one that many businesses are seeking to be a part of as it continues to grow. The games that rise to prominence are those that offer a fair and balanced playing field for eSports teams or solo players to compete on.
FIFA’s struggles to become recognized as a legitimate eSport hinge on these very reasons, and are why people are calling for them to switch their focus from FIFA Ultimate Team. FIFA Ultimate Team is very much a pay-to-win game, generating around $1 billion per year – which is why EA Sports has made it the focal point of almost everything that they do in the sports games. As a flagship for eSports, it represents a game where players only control a small percentage of the activity at any one time as well as the emphasis of skill and tactics being weakened by the ability to input real-world money to buy a better team, effectively.
However, FIFA and the other sports games boast a game mode which is also very popular, though nowhere near as much of a cash-cow, in Pro Clubs. This game mode allows for 11 players to play on a team together while facing other teams of 11 players. It’s like the live sport but being played with thumbs instead of feet. The need to play to develop skills makes it an enjoyable journey to the top and should certainly be pushed as an eSport if EA’s FIFA games are ever to be considered legitimate competition in the industry.
FIFA’s current eSport offering
The latest rendition of FIFA, FIFA 19, has an official release date of September 25, with more expensive versions available for purchase and play before its official launch. But, very little has been divulged with regards to the eSports side.
Competitive FIFA play revolved around qualifying for and competing in the FIFA eWorld Cup via the Global Series. The new format was introduced with FIFA 18, and EA Sports are expected to keep it very much the same with FIFA 19. Last year, gamers were given little over a month to become familiar with the new game and build their Ultimate Team before Season 1 of the Global Series got underway. Qualification began on November 3 with the FIFA Ultimate Team Champions Weekend League which is followed by further online tournaments as well as live events held all over the world.
Throughout the Global Series, 64 players on Xbox Ones and 64 players on PlayStation 4s are identified as top-ranking competitors and can then advance to the Global Series Playoffs. The playoffs – taking place on May 28-30 and June 1-3 – cut the list of players down to just 32 of the world’s finest FIFA gamers, allowing them to compete for the ultimate prize in the FIFA eWorld Cup. The finals event took place on August 2-4.
As stated, very little has emerged concerning FIFA’s eSports exploits with FIFA 19. But, given the success and increased publicity from the Global Series and FIFA eWorld Cup, it looks likely that EA Sports will be hosting the tournament again in 2018-19. With over 20 million players taking part in FIFA 18’s tournament, all on the cash-cow game mode FIFA Ultimate Team, it seems very unlikely that they wouldn’t run it again.
The player base for FIFA is huge, and the amount of money that they make from Ultimate Team is absurd, so it’d be nice to see EA Sports make the prizes a bit more substantial and more in-tune with the other major eSports events. DOTA 2’s The International 2017 had a total prize pool of a whopping $24.7 million, and even the Halo World Championship 2016 boasted a $2.5 million prize pool. Yet, FIFA 18’s Global Series and eWorld Cup merely offered places of qualification to a final event that had a $400,000 total prize pool.
EA Sports’ FIFA has a long way to come if it’s ever to be considered a true eSport, but it has the game mode ready to do so. Regardless, FIFA Ultimate Team will continue to be the flagship, with the Global Series and FIFA eWorld Cup expected to return as their eSports offering in FIFA 19.