E-Sports: Germany is at the forefront on the virtual grass

How to become FIFA eWorld Cup Champion? Maybe with the tornado flank of e-sports professional Leon Aussieker: Hold L1 / LB button, right stick in running direction and then mend 90 degrees inside or outside. The player lays the ball in the air and crosses the ball in front of the goal. Welcome to the world of e-sports!

E-sports is no longer a marginal phenomenon

A world that gathered in London on 3 and 4 August for the FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final 2019 – the EA SPORTS FIFA 19. This time 32 players from 15 nations competed against each other – also with German participation, who did not play an outsider role in this tournament: Because Mohammed “MoAuba” Harkous was the first German to win the world title this year.

The final tracked several million people worldwide, official figures are not yet available. The organizers speak again of a great success. And what does that show us? E-sports has long ceased to be a marginal phenomenon, but a fixed and important factor within the digital society.

From gaming to e-sports

According to the Association of the German Games Industry, every second German played 2018 on the computer, with the phone or the console. Depending on the source, the computer game turnover is between 3.3 and 4.1 billion euros. Germany is thus the fifth largest market behind China, USA, Japan and South Korea.

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Many gamers only play in between, in the subway or just in front of the TV. But other players compete against each other in leagues and go to championships and events – with the goal of winning prize money and titles: Here you enter the world of e-sports.

And this is a huge growth market. By 2020, 130 million euros are to be implemented in Germany alone. The main revenues come from big sponsors who fund players, teams, leagues, events and campaigns. Of course, the focus is on gamers. They are the driving forces of their games and leagues. They inspire masses of young people and live the dream of e-sports professionals.

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The World Cup final of League of Legends saw more spectators than the World Cup final

Especially men between the ages of 25 and 35, who are technically minded, open-minded towards brands and have a higher average income – that makes them the ideal target group for many companies – feel the same.

Of course, e-sports does not just include sports games. There are three categories in total. On the one hand we have the already mentioned sports simulations like FIFA or NBA 2K, then the tactical shooters like Counter Strike or Call of Duty and real-time strategy games like League of Legends or Dota 2.

Just so that the dimensions are clear again: The World Cup final of League of Legends saw 205 million spectators, the World Cup final in Russia 163 million people. However, the two e-sports categories, which do not represent sports simulations, are constantly struggling with image problems.

It takes courage to encourage players to shoot. Here sports simulations have a great advantage and significantly more opportunities to be made socially acceptable by politics and other interest groups. Especially in Germany, the football nation, the simulation game FIFA is the game that led the ranking of the best selling PC and console games of 2018. Nevertheless, here too, the eSportsmen encounter again and again great resistance.

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Sport or no sport – it does not really matter

If you engage with eSport and its potential, it does not take long and you are in the middle of discussing whether e-sports can now be understood as a sport in the traditional sense or not. Members of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) and until recently also the DFB fight back with their hands and feet to accept e-sports as a sport. This legitimacy would be necessary to facilitate funding, a general recognition of e-sports and non-profit.

On the other side there are games and e-sports associations, which emphasize the competition situation, the high pulse of the players and the mental challenges. The whole affair received particular explosiveness when, in the 2018 Coalition Agreement, there was talk of fully recognizing E-Sports as a sport: with association and association rights and even the additional creation of an Olympic perspective.

The DOSB saw that differently and the policy rowed back. In the end, nothing is settled here. However, the profit of Mohammed “MoAuba” Harkous shows how closely virtual and real world are already linked. Because the reigning world champion belongs to the e-sports team of the football club Werder Bremen.

McDonald’s supports E-Sports – and not the DFB

And how does all this affect e-sports in the future? In the professional sector, the acceptance by the sports officials is of secondary importance. The market will continue to evolve without regulation and promotion. The entry barriers for companies are currently low and cost-effective compared to professional sports.

Therefore, many companies have great interest in supporting e-sports in order to reach the young target groups – be it with player sponsoring, the formation of their own teams or new leagues. Incidentally, McDonald’s ended his support in 2018 and began investing in e-sports. Since 2019, Daimler has also supported e-sports professionally. An important argument for their commitment: E-sports is definitely sport. So much for recognition in practice, far from theoretical discussions!

Even FIFA, as guardian of all football rules, has positively answered the question of balancing grass and virtual sports years ago. There one recognized the chances early and established and further developed together with EA football as a virtual sport.

Meanwhile, the DFB has also ushered in the turning point in Grindelwald, presenting its first national team in April 2019 and sending it to the FIFA E-NationsCup. Meanwhile, almost all Bundesliga clubs are active in e-sports and play within the virtual Bundesliga – introduced in 2018/2019 VBL Club Championship – for the German championship.

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The physical fitness of the young players can be encouraged

In the amateur sector and in the promotion of young talent, however, acceptance by politics already plays a major role. Other countries are still here: In Scandinavia and in the US E-Sports is already a subject. E-sports in schools has the advantage of putting virtual games in the limelight and being better supported by teachers and parents.

In this way, media and social skills as well as the physical fitness of the young players can be specifically promoted. Of course, this only works if associations and politics do not spend too much time and if there is really serious interest in participating.

E-Sports brings people together

But back to the FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final 2019. Millions of spectators have seen the various broadcasts. Most of the spectators were young people. Gamer, not necessarily playing football. Gamers who are interested in grass soccer because of the World Cup and thus build a bridge between simulation and reality.

Germany is, as already mentioned, a football country: the enthusiasm runs across all layers and all ages. And only together, through the combination of Bundesliga club, gamers and targeted promotion in the club has succeeded in raising Germany on the international stage of e-sports.

Martin Vierkötter is Managing Director of Gallafilz GmbH with offices in Munich and Zurich. This is the origin of the eSports Company two years ago.

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