While most of the United States watched the Super Bowl earlier this year, a select group of diehards tuned into ESPN to watch the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship Regional Final in Paris, France instead. The FIFA Ultimate Team Championship is a competition that gives avid players of the FIFA video game franchise an opportunity to win cash and gaming glory. The tournament pits the most elite gamers from each region of the world against each other, with the regional winners advancing to play in the final on May 20 to 21 in Berlin, Germany.
The rise of the EA Sports Competitive Gaming Division, combined with the unparalleled popularity of the FIFA video game franchise, has created a global industry that much of the corporate world is clearly eager to invest in. BT Sport, a major sports channel in England, announced on Feb. 23 that they had won the rights to televise the rest of the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship. In the U.S., ESPN signed its own contract with the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship on Feb. 3 to televise the rest of the competition. Which means fans of the impressively built-out game worldwide will be able to watch the best of the best play on the most prestigious digital pitches.
Although the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship viewership will likely pale in comparison to live action sports numbers, the major sports channels’ desire to televise the competition shows that the global market for broadcasting gaming competitions is only looking up. The general eSports industry is projected to have a revenue stream of $1.4 billion by 2019. Even soccer clubs are buying into the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship, with several sides building their own official teams to enter into the competition.
Belgian side RSC Anderlecht is holding an open trial to pick their team soon, with the final round of scouting set to take place at Anderlecht’s annual fan day. Italian club AS Roma chose to partner with eSports organization Fnatic to build their team last month, with Fnatic managing the team training and competitions under the Roma name. The arrival of several of Europe’s top clubs to the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship scene has only increased the amount of capital invested in the overall industry.
Last week, French club PSG announced a sponsorship deal for their eSports team with PMU, a French betting web site. According to reports, the deal is worth six figures. As the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship continues to grow, sponsorship deals such as PSG’s look set to become even more commonplace.
EA Sports’ foray into the eSports industry has been their most successful venture outside of the main FIFA video game franchise yet. EA Sports has previously tried to branch out and create a management game as well as a FIFA Street series. However, neither were nearly as successful as the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship project has been so far. With its continued success, the integration of eSports coupled with real leagues will become even more pronounced, interactive, and competitive.