No matter how you slice it, football is the biggest sport in the world. It has the largest audience (a ridiculous 4 billion followers), pays the most money in terms of bonuses and prizes (the winner of the Champions League gets over 80 million Euros), has the highest-paid athletes, the richest teams, you get the gist of it.
So it’s no surprise that this behemoth of a sport has had an effect on the gaming industry. And that influence goes beyond football games. Football has driven some of the most important developments in the gaming industry as a whole.
Football Manager = Template for Other Sports
Football has always attracted the armchair manager. You know, the lad at the pub who reckons he’s a combination of Mourinho and Alex Ferguson. Or, your dad, telling you he was the one who originally discovered the famous Tonton Zola Moukoko.
The way that fans approach football led to the invention of Championship Manager in 1992, arguably (no, definitely) the best management game series ever made. Its success still reverberates throughout the industry, with many copycats across a number of sports:
Bookies and iGaming
Football and gambling go together like a horse and carriage, or something like that. Placing a cheeky punt on the FA Cup underdog is part and parcel of the football experience, and there’s no question that football has influenced the development of the online gambling industry.
For example, the sheer number of markets all started with football. First goalscorer, minute of the first goal, whether Piers Morgan will replace Arsene Wenger as manager (didn’t happen), or how about taking a punt on David Cameron becoming the next Villa manager? Yeah, those crazy betting options all started with bookies trying to offer football fans something new and exciting.
Football is such a big business that it also drives gameplay innovation at the bookies. For instance, recent iterations of new offerings involve football-themed online slots, including Football: Champions Cup, Championship Manager or the classic Top Trumps. Football has driven the development of more immersive and advanced gameplay; gone are the days of the simple fruit machine.
Yearly Franchise Releases for ALL Sports
In the 90s, football teams started releasing new kits every single season. The gaming industry took notice and copied the process, realizing that footie fans will buy anything to do with the beautiful game. Especially if that includes new features, the latest kits, players who have moved to new clubs, and an exciting new trick or two.
The biggest franchise is FIFA, there’s no question about it. It’s the 27th edition of the game, and we don’t expect the format to change anytime soon. But there are others: Pro Evolution Soccer is an old school favorite, with many gamers preferring it to FIFA.
EA Sports was buoyed by its football success and now releases several sports game series: there’s Madden for football, NBA Life for Basketball, and UFC for MMA. It is undoubtedly true that without the popularity of football to drive the development of sports games, we wouldn’t have the sheer number of options we have available today.
The Rise of eSports
Football has taken a leading role when it comes to eSports. Manchester City, for example, signed an eSports player to its book. Yes, someone who plays video games for a living can now call himself a Man City player.
Premier League players are also getting in on the action. Leicester’s Christian Fuchs, for example, started up his very own FIFA team. The name of the franchise is legendary: NoFuchsGiven.
Football is seeing the potential of eSports. And rather than seeing it as a challenger to the established order, traditional football stalwarts are investing and propelling the industry forward.
But What About the Influence of Gaming on Football?
We’ll leave you with another idea, turning the concepts we’ve explored in this article in the opposite direction. Football has had a big effect on the gaming industry, yes, but it works both ways.
Games like Championship Manager have helped football managers to analyze football from a data perspective. André Villas-Boas, the former Chelsea and Spurs manager, has admitted to using it to guide transfer policy, for example. And Sam Allardyce uses FIFA and Football Manager to teach his grandson about football management.
Football fans also now approach the game with pretty sophisticated knowledge of how the business works. Many look at football in this way because of their gaming experience; they wouldn’t know anything about scouting and the youth system setup without Championship Manager, for example.
In short, football and gaming are intricately connected. And with that point as a final send-off, we think we’ll turn on the PS4 for a little spot of FIFA (bagsy Barcelona!).