FIFA Players: The Ultimate eSports Athletes?

The FIFA video game series is one of the world’s longest-running and most popular. Though it seems like the organization FIFA now plans on revamping its video game series without EA Sports, and FIFA 23 may very well be the last iteration of its kind, there’s no doubt that the eSport will continue as a strong favorite.

In other words, regardless of how FIFA’s new partnership with another video game developer pans out, there will always be eSports leagues that focus on an EA Sports FIFA release. Around the world, dozens of eSports leagues offer competitions focused on the game — from the virtual Bundesliga to the ePremier League to the EA Sports Cup.

After all, FIFA is unlike any other video game series. It beautifully blends the lines between reality, simulation, and recreation in a way that FPSs and MOBAs can’t. Let’s explore what makes FIFA players the ultimate eSports athletes.


A New Approach to eSports

Just about anything can become an eSport today—but not many real-life activities (like football) find a second life in a virtual format. For example, a debate is raging today about whether poker can be considered an eSport for a variety of reasons. Last year, around 60,000 concurrent viewers tuned in to Twitch to see who would take home $1 million in prize winnings playing Texas Hold’em. By most standards, that makes it an eSport.

In the past, the idea of poker, a card game based on strategy and chance, becoming a digitized eSport would have turned heads. After all, it’s a largely mental game. However, those who have real-world poker experience can take their game to the next level in a competitive tournament. The same goes for FIFA players. Those who try their hand at football in real life can take that experience into a digital world.

And, just like with eSports-poker, that experience pays off. Actual footballers who understand how to move off the ball, which formation to arrange players in, and which players to test in new positions tend to fare better than newcomers. This real-world tie-in makes FIFA riveting to watch for football fans—and it also makes players a bit more skilled and nuanced than other players.


A Long History of Competition

Back in 1993, EA Sports released the very first iteration of the series under its former moniker, Extended Play Productions. Simply put, FIFA has been around for longer than most other eSports games. In fact, the first FIFA release coincides with the reformation of the Premier League, making the sports simulation as old as one of its primary leagues.

The FIFAe World Cup got its start not long after. In 2004, FIFA hosted the first FIFAe World Cup—then billed as the FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC). This makes FIFA one of the oldest eSports continuously played in the world, formed only seven years after the first official StarCraft eSports leagues. Many modern FIFA players remember this era in the game—which far precedes the Twitch boom.



The Ultimate eAthlete

Above, we discussed how FIFA players can weave in their real-world knowledge of the sport to improve their gaming. What makes FIFA players some of the best eSports athletes in the industry is that, in order to excel, they actually must keep their finger on the pulse. That’s because FIFA games include real-life stats from real-life players.

Though not nearly as stringent as fantasy stats, and usually skewed with some type of subjectivity, in-game player scores and stats correlate to real-life outcomes. Players don’t have to study recordings of old games to help improve their play, and the stats used for each new release are based on the previous season—but this real-world crossover won’t be found elsewhere in eSports.

Rather than select imaginative characters or build out their own customized avatar, FIFA players are working with humans. This adds a dash of intrigue—one that tends to double anytime the World Cup comes around and players show more interest in national tournaments. Unlike other games on the market, players can compete to represent their national team or their favorite association team.

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