Largest eSports tournament FIFA Interactive World Cup begins
The FIFA Interactive World Cup kicks off today, with millions of online gamers having been whittled down to just 32 players for the Grand Final - this year situated in Westminster, London.
Certified as the largest online gaming tournament by the Guinness World Records, the FIWC boasts a prize fund of $200,000 for the winner of the prestigious eSports tournament and a further $40,000 for the runner-up.
That figure has ballooned in the space of a year and is expected to continue to do so. Last year, the winner received $25,000.
The rise of eSports has been rapid and shows the popularity that gaming has garnered online - last year, the final of the FIWC was broadcast live on Fox Sports, with former American professional footballer Alexi Lalas and YouTuber Spencer Carmichael-Brown (commonly known as Spencer FC) featuring as analysts.
Such is the size and dedication of the audience, professional football clubs have already begun signing up online gamers - much like they do with real players - to represent their club in the online world.
PSG, Manchester City, West Ham United and Sporting Lisbon are just a handful of clubs who have taken steps to secure some of the best online gaming talent, and with the competitive gaming industry estimated to be worth around $1.2bn, it's not hard to see why.
Exposure to the 29 million combined followers on EA Sports FIFA's social media accounts and the fact that around 40 million interactions take place surrounding the FIWC, the brand awareness that an online tournament provides is astounding.
Melbourne City's recent signing is gamer Marcos Gomes, with the online pro having the potential to be "more important than Tim Cahill," according to Fox Sports.
"With 16 million people playing FIFA worldwide, and the competitive FIFA scene taking shape, it is the right time for Melbourne City to move in to eSports," said Melbourne's CEO Scott Munn about the signing.
French club PSG have signed up an entire eSports division, with a new Head of eSports Bora Kim overseeing their advances into League of Legends, whilst they also snapped up two FIFA players.
President of PSG, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, commented on their new project: "We've decided to invest in eSports and to enter our teams in two of the sector's most iconic games, FIFA and League of Legends."
"The decision forms part of the club's international development strategy and represents a new method to interact with our fans and also attract new ones."
Microsoft: Building a secure foundation to drive NASCAR
Microsoft is a key partner of The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and together they are driving ahead to create an inclusive and immersive new fan experience (FX).
These long-term partners have not only navigated the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic with the use of Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365, but are now looking to a future packed with virtual events to enhance the FX, well beyond NASCAR’S famous Daytona racetrack.
“Together, we've created a secure environment that's allowed for collaboration, but the future is all about the fans”, said Melinda Cook, General Manager for Microsoft South USA Commercial Business, who cited a culture of transparency, passion, adaptiveness, and a growth mindset as to why this alignment is so successful.”
“We've partnered to create a fluid, immersive experience for the users that is supported by a secure foundation with Microsoft in the background. We are focused on empowering and enabling customers and businesses, like NASCAR, to reach their full potential. We do this with our cloud platform which provides data insights and security.”
“Our cloud environment allows NASCAR to move forward with their digital transformation journey while we are in the background,” said Cook who highlights that Microsoft is helping NASCAR
- Empower employees productivity and collaboration
- Improve fan engagement and experience
- Improve environment security and IT productivity
- Improve racing operations
Microsoft Teams, which is part of the Microsoft 365 suite, enabled employees to work remotely, while staying productive, during the pandemic. “This allowed people to provide the same level of productivity with the use of video conference and instant messaging to collaborate on documents. Increased automation also allows the pit crews, IT, and the business to focus on safety, racing operations, and on the fan experience,” said Cook.
“We have started to innovate to create a more inclusive fanbase, this includes using Xbox to give people the experience of being a virtual racer or even leveraging some of the tools in Microsoft Teams to have a virtual ride along experience.”
“These environments are how we create a more inclusive and immersive experience for the fans. We're working on a virtual fan wall which allows people from new locations to participate in these events,” said Cook, who pointed out Microsoft was also helping bring legacy experiences alive from NASCAR’s archives.
“At Microsoft we can take it one level further by letting fans know what it's like to see the pit crew experience, the data and all the behind-the-scenes action. We will continue to improve automation with machine learning and artificial intelligence, from marketing to IT operations to finance to racing operations,” said Cook.
Christine Stoffel-Moffett, Vice President of Enterprise Technology at NASCAR, said: “Microsoft is one of our key partners. They have been instrumental in helping the NASCAR enterprise technology team re-architect our Microsoft systems to ensure an advanced level of security across our environment, contribute to our business outcomes, and focus on fan experience.”