From 20 million people, to 32 finalists, to one world champion.
20 million. That’s the number of competitive FIFA 18 players who entered the competition to reach the FIFA eWorld Cup. Only 32 made it to the final at the O2 in London last week and what a final it was.
In the group stages, home-grown champion and Faze Clan member Spencer ‘Gorilla’ Ealing went through undefeated, hoping to become the first ever player to win back to back championships. On the other side of the draw, number 1 seed, Argentina’s Nicolas ‘nicolas99fc’ Villaba also went through undefeated and many were thinking that it would be these two in the grand final.
Everything changed in the quarter finals on day 2. Losing the first leg 4-1 and unable to stage a comeback, Gorilla was eliminated by Malta’s Kurt ‘Kurt0411’ Fenech. Similarly, despite surviving the group stage with ease, nicolas99fc lost to Denmark’s Marcus ‘Marcuzo’ Jørgensen in extra time after going 2-0 down early on.
In the end though, it was Saudi Arabia’s incredible Mossad ‘msdossary’ Aldossary who claimed the title. After a solid start in the group stages, he ramped up the pace in the knockouts. His stunning ability to swarm attacking players and hold his defensive line created an almost impenetrable defence. This combined with quick counter-attacking and beautiful finesses meant that he was able to dominate in the grand final and beat Belgium’s Stefano Pinna 2-0 both on his native Xbox console and on the PS4. Msdossary was then able to claim the brand new trophy for the newly re-branded tournament, as well as the enormous prize of US$250,000.
It was 3 days of intense and exciting moments, and a lot of drama. One highlight for us was the moment in the semi final between Marcuzo and Stefano Pinna when Marcuzo’s shot hit the post in the first half of extra time, essentially sealing his loss. However, it’s not just the spectacle of the games themselves that makes for a good event; it’s also about the organisation of the event itself.
Why it was such a great esports event
The set-up at the O2 was superb. For all matches up to the quarter-finals, the players were positioned on two levels facing their screens to the side, coaches behind them. The large screens set above each player made it easy to follow any match you wanted, the key matches also being projected on the huge screen above the main stage. The flow of the event was also handled very well by presenters Laura Woods and Spencer Owen, with Twitch streamer and esports analyst ChuBoi immediately following up games with player interviews. The Esports Company, lead organising agency for the event, had their own Änna West giving interviews behind the scenes; talking to players, commentators and even singer-songwriter Zak Abel who not only performed live on stage for the whole arena, but also killed it at the after-party. He unfortunately lost 4-1 in the 2v2 celebrity tournament, held between the semis and the grand final. However, we feel that if you can both write songs and sing professionally, then it’s unfair to also be a god at FIFA. It was a great idea to hold a celebrity tournament to keep the crowds entertained between the professional games, given that the final day of the event actually featured relatively few professional games. The second day, featuring the end of the groups, the round of 16 and the quarter finals was definitely the most thrilling, but unfortunately not open to the public. We were also given a demo of the upcoming FIFA 19, with YouTube stars bateson87 and Castro1021 playing on the main screen. Furthermore, all ticket holders for the event were given a chance to have a go themselves at FIFA19, as tens of screens and PS4s had been set up all around the arena. Watching the younger FIFA fans destroy their parents was a definite highlight of the event. It was all capped off with an amazing after-party where the players and coaches could finally relax and celebrate the end of a long season. It also gave a great chance for people from all areas of the esports industry to meet new people or catch up with friends.
Of course it wasn’t only those in the arena who could enjoy the huge spectacle of the tournament. As well as streaming live on Twitch and YouTube, the entire event was broadcast on Sky Sports’ digital channels in the UK and all over the globe to over 100 different countries.
As we all know, esports is massive. FIFA is not quite yet to the level of Overwatch or League of Legends, but it is on the rise. A clear indicator of this is the growth and success of the FIFA eWorld Cup and the amount of money being poured into it. The grand prize in 2016 was $20,000. This year it was $250,000. More people, teams and brands are getting involved with the esports side of FIFA, too. Professional football teams like Manchester City already have their own players, like Marcuzo, and even individual professional footballers like Christian Fuchs are setting up teams under their own brand. We also suspect that organisations like the Premier League will start to create their own esports leagues in the next couple of years.
We have high hopes for the future of FIFA as a competitive esport, and if the events continue to be as good as this year’s FIFA eWorld Cup, run by FIFA and our wonderful strategic partners, The Esports Company, then it will only be a matter of time before we see FIFA rise up and get closer to joining the likes of Overwatch and League of Legends at the top of the esports industry.