The rise in popularity of eSports is increasingly in focus as major professional sports teams endorse digital platforms. Manchester City, one of the English Premier League’s richest clubs and current champions, are the latest club to bridge the gap between the pitch and the eSports arena. The Sky Blues have announced that they have teamed with Epsilon, which already enjoys a strong presence with its Counter-Strike and Street Fighter representation, to take part in next season’s Gfinity Elite Series.
Entering its fourth edition, the prestigious tournament hosts the best European teams after FIFA 19 became part of the Elite Series in 2018. Manchester City, as revealed on mancity.com, will follow in the footsteps of Italian giants Roma to compete in the competition, as well as the newly announced ePremier League. It means the club’s players will have further opportunities to pick up points in order to qualify for the biggest tournament on the eSports footballing calendar: the eWorld Cup.
The team will see City’s players join Marcus ‘Marcuzo’ Jorgensen, the eWorld Cup PlayStation finalist, and former FIWC runner-up Kai ‘Deto’ Wollin. Rookie players will join the team sporting Manchester City’s sky blue colours, each found through the Elite Draft.
A shrewd marketing move as part of its digital expansion, Nuria Tarre, Manchester City’s chief marketing officer, said this marked a very exciting opportunity for the club, praising the global status of the Gfinity Elite Series and Epsilon’s experience in eSports.
It isn’t surprising to see the Sky Blues embrace eSports as the Premier League, notes forbes.com, has been in favour of developing a link between the physical game and its digital counterpart. As well as City, other teams like West Ham will have professional FIFA players on their books with competition finals enjoying a high profile stage as they are broadcast online and via Sky Sports TV.
This is a big move for both parties. For City, it opens them up to an audience they may not have previously had in the eSports world. For the eSports community, it can be seen as a legitimization of the pursuit. The Sky Blues are a big side in world football right now and are 5.50 favourites with moplay.co.uk for the Champions League, Europe’s premier soccer competition.
It’s a good move for the club. After all, it’s taking its cues from the Premier League, a successful global brand that has risen to the top of the tree thanks to clever marketing. FIFA and the Premier League have enjoyed a strong relationship ever since FIFA 15 when a fully-branded mode was introduced.
Still behind titles such as Overwatch, Dota 2, Command Strike and Fornite, Manchester City’s move will help FIFA developer EA Sports grow the brand in the eSports arena.
But it’s a market that must be embraced. Research from Deloitte.com suggests that by 2020 the global eSports market will have 600 million fans and generate $1.5bn in annual revenue.
Will the blue half of Manchester be commanding the Elite Series in the months to come? Time will tell.