After EASports release the trailer for FIFA17 Lee Davy looks into his crystal ball and predicts that the FIFA franchise will one day be the richest eSport and betting market in the world.
The adults are drinking their cider outside. The weather hangs somewhere between sunny and dreary. The kids are in the front room. Johnny has brought his PlayStation, and the five children are playing ‘winner stays on’ the EASports game FIFA. Johnny is always ‘on.’
Outside, Johnny’s Dad asks where the kids are? He’s told that they are all in the front room having fun.
“Bloody video games,” says Johnny’s Dad who promptly gets up from his seat, walks into the front room, turns off the TV and forces the children out to play.
“There is nothing to do,” Johnny complains.
“Play football,” says Johnny’s Dad.
This is an extract from the Parent’s Tao Te Ching by William Martin:
Your children plan their own education,
Like it or not.
You must learn to cooperate with that plan,
If they are drawing,
They become artists.
If they are reading,
They become students.
If they are investigating something,
They become scientists.
If they are helping prepare a meal,
They become chefs.
Whatever they are doing
They are learning,
And it is for them,
The title of the teaching is Fan The Spark.
EASports is fanning that spark, and as parents, businesspeople, and observers of life, we should start paying attention.
When I was a kid, I didn’t have a video console or a computer.
My Uncle lived with me for a few years and during this time we would go through the Rothman’s Football Yearbook, write down all of the world’s teams onto pieces of paper, cut them out, place them in a bowl, and then create a World Club Championship draw. We would roll dice to determine the score with a handicap system built in for the better sides. We would record all of the tournaments in a book.
Years later, when I was all grown up and could afford a PlayStation I used to do the same thing except I would play each game on FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer (PES). I kept my scores on a spreadsheet. My wife caught me one day.
“Do you want me to make you a paper cup?” she said.
Anyone Can Become a Professional Footballer
I was too small to be a professional footballer. Well, that’s the advice the experts gave me. I ignored them all, but there was some truth to it. Look at the players today. They are athletes. There isn’t an ounce of fat on them. Not everyone can become a professional footballer.
That’s why the FIFA franchise is so fantastic. It doesn’t discriminate. The FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC) is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest online gaming tournament in the world. Over 2 million people compete for the first prize of $20,000. Blacks, whites, old, young, disabled, fat, thin, ugly, pretty, anyone who can hold a game controller can play FIFA.
In 2015, a professional footballer from Brazil, Wendell Lira, won the FIFA Puskas Award for the most beautiful goal of the season. He received his award at the FIFA Ballon d’Or award ceremony. Later that night, he sat down to compete against the 2015 FIWC Champion, Abdulaziz Alshehri, to play a spot of FIFA and thrashed him 6-1. Today, Lira doesn’t play professional football on a real pitch. He retired to play professional football for a FIFA team.
A Brave New World
The English Premier League (EPL) is the richest of its kind in the world. Manchester United, the most successful club in EPL has just signed Paul Pogba from Juventus in a world record deal worth £89.3m.
EPL teams are big business, but it’s the fans that create the revenue. Without them the teams are nothing. In the past, these fans would come through the turnstiles on a Saturday afternoon, sitting on their father’s shoulders, asking permission to use bad language for the day.
Today, the fans also connect to their club via games like FIFA. As I have previously stated in my writing before, my coaching experience at U14 level exposed me to a new world where kids learned how to play football, not by kicking a ball about on the pitch, but by playing FIFA.
West Ham’s marketing department realised the power in this when they signed Sean “Dragonn” Allen to wear the West Ham kit when playing in FIFA tournaments and to market the brand when streaming live on Twitch. The club even gave Allen a bona fide squad number.
I believe this move has legs.
Our technological growth is reaching incredible levels, and it won’t slow down. The more we learn, the faster our growth becomes. The world is changing, and the innovators like West Ham are already trying to take advantage of it.
The Hammers signed Allen to represent them in FIFA competitions, but he is only one man in charge of the virtual squad, making all of the decisions, and ultimately winning or losing of his own volition.
What if West Ham signed 25 FIFA players?
What if EASports and the Premier League created a virtual league that ran alongside the physical Premier League? Each Premier League team would have their 25 FIFA players, and a manager. Each game would consist of 22 actual players controlling their own avatar.
FIFA players could move between clubs during the same transfer window as the EPL. There could also be an FA Cup, League Cup, and other European nations could join in to create a Champions League. The best players could represent their countries in the European Championships, Copa America, and the World Cup.
The 2016 Dota 2 International has recently smashed the record for creating the largest prize pool for an eSports competition after Dota 2 players helped amass over $20m, with the winning team, Wings Gaming, earning $9.1m.
The prize pool was so big because a portion of in-game Battle Packs was syphoned off for the International. FIFA makes a lot of money via their Ultimate Team mode. They have the ability to use a significant portion of this revenue to generate prize pools that could even dwarf the real life EPL.
The Betting Markets
The two biggest betting markets in any sportsbook are horse racing and soccer. Imagine how big a FIFA betting market could become? The opportunities that exist within the current global footballing markets, including in-play options, would all fit nicely into an interactive world.
Sportsbooks wouldn’t have to put any effort into creating a new model. It already exists. Betting companies would enter into sponsorship deals with virtual clubs like they do with EPL clubs. The virtual stadium for Stoke City will still be called the Bet365 Stadium, and their logo will still be emblazoned on the shirt of their team.
Agenda’s – Yours or Theirs?
Little Johnny and his mates didn’t go and play football like their Dad told them too. Instead, they sat on the kerb, sulking, and internally wishing their parents would all choke on their cider.
I didn’t drink.
I offered to take them all back to mine, and we played FIFA all night. The sulking vanished. Joy overcame. And in that briefest of moments, I didn’t want to stop. I was a child again when seriousness existed only in my parents, and everything seemed like a game.
If you push your children,
they will lose their balance.
If you are always running them here and there,
They will get nowhere.
If you put them in the spotlight,
They will be unable to see their own light.
If you seek to impose upon them
Your own ideas of who they should be,
They will become nothing.
Don’t let that happen.
Embrace the changes in technology.
When I was young, my parents would scream at me to turn the music down.
In the future, the noise will come from all the stamping. Your son or daughter will have padded walls, they will wear headsets, and they will be kicking an invisible ball into an invisible net.
That Rothman’s Yearbook seems at awfully long time ago.