Esports: 7 in 10 fans prefer playing football video games more than the sport itself

A Plusnet survey of 1,000 gaming and football fans reveals the impact esports is having on traditional sports.


(Photo credit: FIFA)

Esports has risen in popularity immensely this decade as competitive gaming in the UK and of sports-based games looks to play catch-up with the big-hitting titles that sell out arenas in the Far East and in the States. 

The International: Dota 2 Championships took place in Seattle last year, with the winners, Mineski, going home with the prize of $10.9 million from the pool of $24.7 million. This is where the future lies, with esports big players having conversations with IOC (International Olympic Committee) officials in Switzerland last month. 

Esports will also play a part at the upcoming Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia.  Arena of Valor, Clash Royale, Hearthstone, League of Legends, Pro Evolution Soccer and Starcraft II will feature as demonstration events, with medals awarded.

The UK is spoiled when it comes to choice of traditional sports. Whereas other nations may have one or two major sports, the UK competes at the highest level across the board, with football, cricket, rugby, tennis and athletics all in the public eye.

A new tradition

FIFA
This goes all the way down to participation levels, right? This may not actually be the case, as a recent poll suggests that less Brits are still playing sport and turning to the gaming equivalent instead.

“I can’t play like Messi, but on FIFA, not only can I play like him, I can be him.”

Plusnet asked a survey of 1,001 people with an interest in gaming and/or football whether they would rather actively play football, or sit on the sofa and play the gaming equivalent. The results came back with 72% preferring to fire up a game of FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer with their mates, rather than kicking a ball around. 

Almost a third said this was because they were “better at playing video games than the real thing”, with 31% saying “on video games, I can play as my favourite players”. 

Andrew Seleapak, professor in telecommunications at the University of Florida said: “Sports video games allow us to fantasise about being our favourite players, which means we also have the skills of our favourite players and athletes. 

“I can’t play like Messi, but on FIFA, not only can I play like him, I can be him.”

Problem or solution?

FIFA
To some, this may sound alarming. The UK government is currently on a mission to put the country on a diet, with concerns over nutrition levels. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey collected data between 2014 and 2016, revealing that 141% of teenagers daily calorie intake, respectively; the official recommendation is to limit sugar to no more than 5%.

With so much reward available for being successful in gaming, maybe it isn’t so bad. The esports movement is now hitting the UK and the sports video game titles, with the recent FIFA eWorld Cup held in London a massive success.

It was a record prize pool for the eWorld Cup at $400,000 with champion MsDossary going back to Saudi Arabia with an official FIFA trophy, an invitation to The Best FIFA Awards ceremony and prize money of $250,000. 20 million people began the qualifying process for the eWorld Cup, meaning the demand is clearly there. 

If Olympic status is granted, you can only imagine participation in esports to increase dramatically. In the Plusnet survey, 56% of people regarded esports as a ‘real sport’, with 58% wanting to see esports represented at the Olympics.

Professional football clubs such as Manchester City and West Ham United have snapped up professional esports players, and 61% in the survey wanted to follow the likes of Man City pairing Marcuzo (FIFA eWorld Cup 2018 semi-finalist) and Deto (FIFA Interactive World Cup 2017 runner up) in representing a football team. 

Whitney Meers, founder of video game market agency Platformer Marketing said: “The barrier to entry is lower with video games. Even in the middle of the night, all you need is the console and the game to get started, not an entire team and access to a pitch.”

No stopping the snowball

FIFA
With esports growing and growing seemingly with every passing day, you can only imagine the prize pools and lucrativeness of tournaments to grow. More and more traditional sporting authorities will get involved and expect the IOC and Premier League among the first to get involved.

Football will survive with the esports movement, and may even grow from it, with many fans in the US getting into ‘soccer’ through the phenomenon that is FIFA. The worry is for the lesser sports, which are not regarded the world over and don’t have a connection to esports.

Rugby, cricket and tennis already struggle to compete against football at the moment, in participation and attendance, and if more people are at home playing video games, this will be detrimental to their futures. Governing bodies need to look after them, as there is a possibility that the current rise in quality in these sports may decline, with esports the explanation. 

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Alastair Pusinelli

I am RealSport's Editor-in-Chief having covered almost everything across the board on the platform. Starting with content on football and the Chinese Super League, I have expanded into esports and gaming, via a stint as rugby editor.

With RS now focused on gaming and working alongside Gfinity, I led the site's coverage on the football titles of FIFA, Football Manager and PES. This has enabled me to cover official esports events such as the FIFA eWorld Cup, FUT Champions Cups and the Gfinity FIFA Series.

Elsewhere, I have been published in The Sunday Times and Variety magazine, as well as working in the offices of Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Hampshire CCC.

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