The FIFA video game franchise has been entertaining soccer fans for nearly three decades. Having debuted in 1993, the EA Sports series has amassed over 325 million units sold in its lifetime, and has expanded its revenue generation through mobile, FIFA Online, and Ultimate Team. The pandemic also led to a “massive influx” of players over the last year, according to EA Sports management.
From an esports perspective, FIFA esports doesn’t yet command the viewership that other esports do – the League of Legends World Championship last year peaked at 3.8 million viewers – but the FIFA 21 Challenge last October did become EA’s most-watched esports event with a total watch time of more than 1 million hours. While it isn’t at the top of the esports heap, the publisher understands that traditional sports give it an inherent advantage in reaching a broader audience over time.
EA’s head of competitive gaming, Todd Sitrin, told Protocol, “There is a huge population that finds what the entire industry is doing as completely inaccessible. Our vision is to take competitive entertainment mainstream.”
In America, part of that vision incorporates the popular Madden NFL series, but for the rest of the world soccer and FIFA is king. That’s why EA Sports recently made a couple of significant moves to bolster its FIFA esports business. Monica Dismore, who spent over six years at Riot Games in various esports and publishing roles, has joined EA Sports specifically to take charge of special projects on FIFA esports. Additionally, thanks to a partnership with Tencent, EA Sports’ FIFA Online 4 will gain significant exposure in China, as the first ePremier League outside of Britain started on April 28th in the country. As more and more soccer clubs around the world enter the esports arena (either through ownership or affiliation), there’s a massive opportunity ahead for EA Sports and FIFA. Interpret’s Esports Replay shows that 35% of people who play FIFA video games in the US also watch esports, compared to 22% of all US gamers who are esports viewers.