FIFA has entered the scene of esports, but it hasn't had the impact that many may have expected. Here's why the most popular sports game in the world hasn't seen much success so far.
A big part of the issue is the often-poor gameplay. Whether it be glitched AI or horrendous calls, shoddy gameplay has affected FIFA in a big way, causing concern among its millions of players. In fact, these issues have even made an appearance in major esports events, costing the top players thousands of dollars and a chance at victory. A recent appearance came in Berlin at the Ultimate Team Championships when Rafifa was robbed of a blatant penalty against Marlut. That penalty may have ultimately cost him the game as Rafifa fell 1-0 in a hotly contested match.
Scripting and momentum is another concern. Players have suspected that they are implemented in the game to favor those who are losing or on a rough streak, but there still has been no proof to back up these claims. Unlike last year's "Chemgate" where EA was forced to reveal the truth after a Reddit user made a viral post concerning chemistry styles and how team and player chemistry affected a player's stats, there is no reason for EA to publish an official statement regarding scripting. While it may be their right to do so, a huge company like EA needs to be transparent with their customers, especially considering the hundreds of millions of dollars that they make from FIFA purchases and FIFA points.
In a smaller game, one might expect a few of these issues to pop up, but in one of the biggest games in the world, these issues are completely unacceptable.
If EA truly wishes to launch FIFA onto the global esports scale, they'll have to tend to the game and make sure that play is completely fair.
Another concern is the lack of money involved in the FIFA esports industry. Top players are rewarded very little for the efforts, instead choosing to survive off other jobs or their YouTube income. Sure, the best of the best do get some good cash off their victories, somewhere in the range of 200 thousand dollars, but for those who aren't good or lucky enough to come out on top of the competition, they can find themselves getting a meager couple thousand of dollars. While it may not seem like a small amount of money, for many of these players, FIFA is their full time job. In order to play at the highest levels, they must spend a large portion of their days dedicated to playing the game.
Sponsors are definitely becoming more interested in FIFA as an esport, but for the time being, the prize money will stay where it's at. Unlike League of Legends and Dota 2, where the prize money can go as high as a couple million of dollars, the top players will have to be content with 200k. This is also true from a betting standpoint. Even though FIFA has all the potential to become one of the biggest esports in the world, there have been very few competitions where online betting has been available. Only the biggest competitions have opportunities to bet, and even those opportunities are quite slim.
FIFA has all the potential in the world, and they're certainly growing in terms of sponsorships and interest. The money for the players right now is simply too low. That has to change in the near future if they want FIFA to succeed.
FIFA hasn't been on the esports scene for long. In fact, this year is the first where EA have actually implemented an organized system. In years past, the FIWC wasn't home to the best players in the world. In fact, many players opted to play smaller tournaments instead after being unable to qualify. With the introduction of direct qualification through FUT Champions and the regional events that are popping up all over the world, EA seems to have finally implemented a system to regulate the esports circuit.
It's not all good news though. While the new system has certainly helped in terms of organization, it's not entirely organized itself. Many competitions are nowhere to be found on the internet, and there is still no dedicated site with statistics for all the top esports players. In fact, when researching another article on FIFA, I found myself having to resort to rewatching the tournament matches on YouTube in order to find out the victors and the goals they scored.
FIFA hasn't had a very long stint with esports, but they're definitely learning. As time goes on and EA start to perfect their system and become more organized, there's no doubt that their position in esports will change.
While the present may not look so good for FIFA, it has the potential for a bright future. If they can convert even a small percentage of the millions of players they have into dedicated fans and viewers, they have all the potential to become one of the biggest esports games in the world. FIFA attracts players from all over the world. Due to the global appeal of soccer, by far the world's biggest sport, FIFA has one of the largest potential player bases in the world. Even if you don't play the game, everyone enjoys watching the sport, and the same should apply to watching FIFA too.
If interest grows in the game and sponsors start coming in, we could see the game grow exponentially in the next couple of years as viewership increases and the cash starts flowing in.
FIFA may not be ready for esports yet, but that doesn't mean it can't be. EA need to be less concerned about money and more concerned about fixing their game. If they can improve the gameplay, attract more sponsors, and allow FIFA some time to grow on its own, they have a huge future ahead of them. If not, they'll suffer the consequences. Which option will they take? That's not up to us to decide.