Since its inception, Esports has been considered by the outside world as a niche form of entertainment. But over the past 30 years, we have witnessed Esports move from small collections of enthusiasts in the back rooms of conventions to incredible events which give traditional sports a run for their money.
From Starcraft contests of yesteryear to Overwatch League and Counter-Strike tournaments, the most visible Esports are dominated by a small pool of gameplay types—mainly consisting of FPS and MOBA games.
However, sports games have slowly drawn more and more attention garnering hundreds of thousands of live viewers.
As one of the darlings of sports games, FIFA is one of the game franchises which has long been solidifying their place in the world of Esports. Let’s take a look at how FIFA Esports have evolved, and what exactly they’re planning next for FIFA 21.
History of FIFA Esports
The world cup is undeniably the prime event in any football fan’s calendar. As such, FIFA, in partnership with EA Sports, decided to begin their official journey into Esports with the FIFA Interactive World Cup (later renamed the FIFAe World Cup).
The inaugural world cup took place in 2004, in Switzerland to lukewarm success with Brazilian representative Thiago Carrico de Azevedo taking home the cup.
Over the following years, the FIFAe World Cup grew in prominence as it travelled from country to country, with the 2013 edition of the series receiving a landmark number of signups—totalling 2.5 million.
Continuing to grow, the FIFAe World Cup obtained the Guinness World Record as the largest online Esports game, solidifying its place as a cornerstone for Esports as a whole.
As popularity of FIFA Esports exploded, FIFA decided to add a variety of other championships to the table randing from the FIFAe Club World Cup and the FIFAe Nations cup to many other officially endorsed tournaments, a number of which mirrored real-world competitions like the Champion’s league.
All this solidified FIFA not only as one of the most widely enjoyed gaming franchises, but also as a staple of the Esports calendar.
Esports in FIFA 21
With Esports becoming more and more integrated into the modern world, it goes without saying that EA’s latest sports title is continuing the long running legacy of FIFA Esports.
Excitingly, the EA SPORTS FIFA 21 Challenge, a one-day event which took place earlier this year, drew in a whopping 254,057 live viewers, culminating in over 1 million hours of viewership marking it as EA’s most viewed Esports event in their history.
This is fantastic news as it not only continues the legacy of FIFA Esports, but it proves that there is still much room for growth with more players and viewers interacting than ever before.
While this landmark event may be over for this year, there are plenty of other events on the FIFA Esports calendar to be excited by, even many which players can still apply to play in themselves.
While Esports is most certainly about the gaming itself, it’s also worth highlighting how this year’s FIFA 21 Esports events have gone above and beyond to attract more general audiences. For example, the previously mentioned EA Sports FIFA 21 Challenge incorporated celebrity participation, featuring pop singer Dua Lipa, alongside their top-class broadcast offering and in-game rewards for engaging in the event.
This all aligns perfectly with the growing sentiment that Esports and traditional sports industries share the same DNA, promoting a convergence of presentation format and audiences.
Esports and Age
While EA have pushed the boundaries of their Esports offerings with FIFA 21, there is still a large question looming over the formalities of the tournaments: and that is age. The prime example of this is Anders Vejrgang, a well-known 15-year-old Danish FIFA player. While Vejrgang has very impressive stats in FIFA Ultimate Team, perhaps the more interesting feather in his cap is that he is already playing for RB Leipzig Gaming.
The only catch is that Vejrgang’s age is restricting him from playing in the tournaments organized by EA, which are reserved for players over the age of 15. Not only this, but Vejrgang has actually been competing in other competitions since 2017, where he has repeatedly displayed that he is capable of beating the Danish number one.
In short, there’s still a question about whether the same age ranges should apply for Esports as exist in many real-world football leagues around the world. After all, sports are about remarkable sporting performances, not age.
Ultimately, FIFA Esports have been a growing phenomenon ever since their inception, and the recent tournaments taking place within FIFA 21 only go to prove that these sporting events will get bigger as time goes on. But as these sporting events grow in size, it’s clear that the organisers need to take a look inwards about how to best create rules and regulations which reflect the unique aspects of Esports.
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