FIFA 19 – Real Madrid Sign ESports Pro?

We all know that Esports are up and coming, but Real Madrid may have placed the most bizarre exclamation point on the space yet.  FIFA 19 is set to release September 25, 2018.  Real Madrid hype this as the popular football club “signed” a fake player this week for the coming game.  In an event that had press, jersey sales, and even a player reveal video, Real Madrid signed a FIFA 19 video game player.  Alex Hunter is now available for Real Madrid, at least in the video game mode of FIFA My Player where you live the life of a major footballer.

Esports Growing Popularity

The signing of a video game player to a “real contract” is bizarre and truly the first instance of its kind.  Alex Hunter has become popular among players since starring in FIFA’s “My Player Mode” which we’ll talk about more later.

The digital star’s signing represents the attempt Esports are making, successfully at that, to integrate modern and digital sports.  The move further emphasizes the fixture Esports will be in all our lives in coming decades.  The is no denying Esports growing popularity.

Viewers love Esports and will sit around to watch other people play video games which many old people find strange.  Like it or not, the droves of people flocking to Esports to spend time is statistically significant.

Major Esports tournament finals of popular video games such as League of Legends have been known to draw over 50 million viewers.  To put that into perspective, the MLB All-Star game draws roughly 10 million viewers each year.  The ALCS draws about 6.5 million viewers per game.  The average NFL game receives 14.9 million viewers per game.  You can read a lot more about NFL viewership here in this interesting article by the New York Post.

Largely a bootlegged stream in 2017, the FIFA Interactive World Cup accurately displayed both the infancy and potential that Esports have to be great.  Even though it was only available on TwitchTV, the streaming broadcast accrued 357,175 hours of viewership with each contest averaging 20,000 viewers.

That’s a lot of engaged viewership and it sets off alarm bells that attract attention from investors, major retailers, and advertisers.  The tournament already had a $200,000 in overall Prize Pool.  It can be expected that the prize money figure will only increase.  There is more money coming into this space.  It’s a profitable one with a very attractive target market of viewers that have been traditionally tough to reach through conventional digital advertising.

While the money is there for the taking, there is still quite a bit of question around how this will all unfold.  Much like the internet itself, Esports are an uncharted frontier.  Channels still must be built for things to progress efficiently.   Believe it or not, there was a time when the NBA and MLB had to create themselves and there was a time they weren’t popular.  They had to secure sponsorship money and ownership groups.  Franchises had to be formed.

Unlike sports before it, there is no denying the Esports can and will be profitable and is already popular.  All that is needed now is the infrastructure.  It’s all just going to require, money, time, and talent.

ESports Investment

Shark Tank legend and billionaire investor, Mark Cuban is bullish on ESports.

Esports is growing quickly.  They’ve been established to be the fastest growing “sport” in the United States surpassing both the NFL and MLS in year over year growth percentage numbers.

Don’t believe that Esports are big money?  Think again!

CSGo (Counter Strike Go), World of Warcraft are just a few examples of where gaming has achieved mainstream status.  Their events are often offered in online sportsbooks for betting and they even make it onto Esports television.  Most recently Fortnite showed what gaming could really do by surpassing a billion dollars in sales.  What an accomplishment that is for an indie game.

It’s likely that Esports will start growing even more quickly as even more investment hits the space.

Games like Red Dead Redemption have players salivating for open world potential.  Westworld has only increased the popularity that game will achieve at launch when it comes out in late October.

I’ve already told my girlfriend to prepare for that period as I will be vastly unavailable during hours where I’m not working.  I’ve got bears to hunt baby! 

NBA 2K's interactive league leaderboard for ESports.

NBA2k has already seen extensive investment from the NBA and is the farthest along from a team play perspective.  Mark Cuban bought his own franchise and it plays under the Mavericks banner.  The billionaire is also known for his investments in Sportsradar (a sports data service geared at real time insights) and Unikrn (a platform to stream and bet on Esports gaming).

Names like Michael Jordan are involved in Esports investment.  NBA stars like Kyrie Irving are known for their involvement in 2k MyPlayer (We were lucky enough to play mypark with him two years ago GT: lazybets PSN) and NBA players are known for their love of Ronny 2k.  Gordan Hayward is a big fan of Esports and commentates on it.  He hasn’t invested in it as of July, but it’s a good bet that he’s on his way.

FIFA Video Game Popularity

Alex Hunter’s joining of Real Madrid may seem trivial, but it’s not.  It means a lot to a very big audience of players who range anywhere from 10-60.

Everyone loves playing FIFA and much like NBA 2k, Lionel Messi, Ronaldo, and other stars have been known to play the game.

Alex Hunter gear available in the Real Madrid Online Store.

FIFA 18 had over 300,000 copies sold as of January of this year and it’s safe to assume that the game moved over 500,000 retail units this calendar year. According to Forbes, the FIFA franchise accounted for nearly 40% of Electronic Art’s revenue in 2016 and that revenue has grown since then.

EA does not own the 2k franchise.  It is owned by rival Take 2 Interactive which is known for owning the Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto Franchises.

Much like GTA, Fifa has been successful in monetizing in game content and they’re getting better at it each year.  In 2016, each unit of FIFA grossed about $121.  That’s double the price of the game at the retail level and means players are buying to upgrade in various modes.  They are invested to their success that much.

Popular FIFA Modes

Two aspects of FIFA have driven its massive popularity.  Growing up, Franchise Mode and the occasional lag filled online versus games were the only choice for gamers.  In today’s gaming world, players are allowed many options outside of the two we were accustomed to during gaming’s earlier years.

Be a Pro Mode and Ultimate team have been the biggest drivers of the EA Sports Franchise in terms of growth both in users and revenue.  many options, especially in sports.

Alex Hunter is the headliner for Be A Pro Mode.  In this mode you have both an offline and online character.  For cinematic purposes and storyline, Alex Hunter is the character that represents the player in offline mode.

The online mode offers full customization options with facial screening available along with height, weight, name, surname, nickname, number, boots, and accessories all being customizable to players.  Hooray pink haired, purple booted players trolling online!

In both modes, play in game creates increases or decreases in statistical ratings.  Players can of course buy in game upgrades to this.

Ultimate team is similar to the customization of your pro in that it’s fully customized.  The players build his or her 18 man roster with players and accessory cards that are unveiled at random and collected through packs.  Packs can be exchanged for coins which are earned slowly through playing games or through using FIFA bucks which can be purchased with cash.

Real Madrid PR Stunt

Alex Hunter, available to Real Madrid only on their console.

The biggest winner and loser in this is Real Madrid.  This is a major PR stunt.  Sure, the franchise just secured the hands of Thibaut Courtois.  The World Cup Semifinalist Goalkeeper is nothing but a consolation prize for the loss of Christiano Ronaldo Juventus.

While this brings publicity to the franchise, it’s a troll job for fans mourning the loss of the world’s best player.

Cheer up and Hala Madrid!  The best (video game) player in the world should make a noticeable impact on your playstation this year!  Just don’t look for him if you try to stream the game on PSVue or BeinSports.

They broadcast real life…

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