Ganassa World Football Summit

eSports and football: The long-term development in Asia

· by World Football Summit

One of the highlights of the year for videogamers is upon us: FIFA 23 is coming to screens around the world. The release date has been scheduled for September 30th for the Standard Edition (three days after the Ultimate Edition) while the beta version was unlocked on September 2nd. 

The game will be unique in its genre as the last one with the synergy between FIFA and EA Sports.

FIFA 23: Adapting to the new dynamics of the football industry

Nevertheless, some steps have already been taken by EA, separating from FIFA and announcing some interesting deals with international leagues. The company has already signed a multiyear deal with LaLiga, which became the first league to openly support the game without FIFA’s collaboration. The provisionally-named “EA Sports FC” also struck a deal with the Spanish championship to become the main sponsor of all competitions from the 2023/24 season.

This partnership with EA SPORTS is set to truly transform the way football is enjoyed around the world” -, said Óscar Mayo, the Executive Director from LaLiga in an official press release from the Spanish league -. “Moreover the alliance demonstrates LaLiga is a global brand, evidence of the success of our league to connect with fans internationally.

And the expectations for FIFA 23 are high. EA Sports pointed out that the upcoming title will heavily feature women’s football (with the add of the Barclays Women’s Super League) and that it’ll be possible for the very first time to play both the men’s and women’s FIFA World Cups in the same game, with the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ and FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023™ featuring in the title.

Furthermore, the biggest anticipation comes for the title’s HyperMotion2 technology, which uses machine learning from real-world matches to simulate more realistic movements, dribbling, and defenders’ behaviour when fighting for the ball. The aim of the game and the company is to boost and improve the physics system for the player, making the experience unique. As the press release states: 

Team and player movement across the pitch is more responsive, smart, and authentic, whether jockeying against a defender or claiming an aerial ball against an attacker as a keeper. Players can also look forward to a new intelligent dribbling system, a more natural and fluid transition to shooting, all-new acceleration mechanics, enhanced player awareness, and much more.

But those improvements won’t just have an impact on the product offered. The players will enjoy a deeper experience that could boost their interest in eSports, whose universe has seen FIFA as one of the main titles. It’s not an accident that FIFA22 recorded more than 9.1 million players joining the game, with 7.6 million Ultimate Team squads created and 460 million matches played in its first month of launch.

And in Asia, this environment is destined for growth.

The growth of eSports in the Asian region

When it comes to Asia, numbers are speaking the truth: revenues of the eSports market in Asia saw an overall increase in 2021. Market revenue on the continent increased by around 90 million U.S. dollars, reaching 492.1 million that year. Industry Market Outlook estimates that the revenue of the market will continue to increase and by 2026 reach over 952 million U.S. dollars.

And it’s not just about revenue growth; you can see packed arenas in South Korea cheering on League of Legends tournaments. But now organisations are picking up the pace, with FIFA just celebrating their eSports World Cup last July in Copenhagen (in a new and renowned calendar of competitions within its environment) and talks of featuring eSports as an Olympic discipline (after the debut has been scheduled for the 2022 Asian Games, which will take place in China in 2023 with FIFA being among the games played).  

The game launch for FIFA features a unique chance for clubs from the Top 5 leagues. It’s not just about having two or more players for your eSports team. It’s about building a project that could bridge the gap between Europe and Asia, and provide a way to share the grassroots and values of one organisation. 

This is the continent of eSports.

According to research from Niko Partners, the Asian eSports market accounts for more than 54% of the nearly US $1 Billion-dollar global esports market. And eSports viewership in Asia boomed in 2020, growing to 618.4 million spectators in 2020 (+21% from 2019). And India, being the most populous nation in Asia with 1.3 billion people only scratched the surface of this sector, when it took part in the FIFA eNations Cup in 2021.

Depending on the country, there could be several reasons why there are so many “gamers.”. For example, the 2022 Asian Games and the chance to play for the Gold medal in eSports could even provide military exemption as it did for Son Heung-min after winning the tournament in 2018. eSports are also seeing an increase in female participation, which in Asia accounts for 50% of the global eSports market.

Furthermore, there are also technical aspects to analyse. Online tournaments provide open competitions where everyone can  participate. Fixed platforms and LAN tournaments  feature only a small number of participants. With LAN tournaments, players would be advised to stay in the same room to avoid lags and possible lagging problems. Instead, online tournaments avoid all these hurdles, letting in an infinite number of participants and avoiding the LAN-related problems and lagging thanks to a solid connection.

Last but not least, these tournaments provide chances to implement marketing campaigns, social media strategies, and the opening of new accounts in these regions. But there’s still another opportunity left to exploit.

The next frontier is taking video games beyond the screens

One of the most popular football game franchises of all time, Football Manager, built its legacy largely on providing the player with the fantasy of being in control of each minute detail of a football club, including the scouting of players. Nowadays, the same players can be scouted themselves as eSports athletes (whether it’s about academies or even combines).

Let’s take for example a club from the Top 5 Leagues that initiates a scouting program for ePlayers in Asia. The aim of the club shouldn’t be just about winning tournaments, but bringing this talent on-site to teach them about the values of the club, future strategies, and integrating them into the club’s universe.

Let’s take this example further. Suppose this club takes action to strengthen their eSports team by looking at the best prospects in Asia. After picking some profiles, they opt to bring them to Europe into the club’s HQ. They won’t just practice playing FIFA;  they’ll share the long-term view of the club over their work and the goals they should achieve.

In this sense, the scouting process in eSports doesn’t just become a way to win the main FIFA-related tournaments (Global Series and the eFIFA universe). The scouting instead becomes a way for the club to invest in social media through eSports, putting that talent scouting process to the task, and finding ways to add further revenues for the club’s finances.

eSports will be present across the World Football Summit program

The eSports conversation will be central for this decade and the World Football Summit in Europe – which will take place in Seville, Spain on September 28-29 – will continue the conversation with a panel called “Bring in the Billions: What makes the Gaming industry so flush?”.

As per WFS synopsis over the panel: “The Gaming industry is immensely large. It is also growing continuously, as there are over two billion gamers across the globe today – 26% of the world’s population. With numbers like those, it’s no surprise that companies want a piece of the pie.” And you surely don’t want to miss out on this great opportunity.


This interview is featured in the latest edition of WFS Digest, our insider’s guide to the latest and most relevant thoughts and practices from within the football industry. You can subscribe to WFS Digest HERE.