England fans might be disappointed with the national team’s early exit from Brazil but, for what it’s worth, our representatives fared better in the FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC), which for the first time took place in the same country at the same time as the FIFA World Cup.
Twenty-year old David Bytheway from Wolverhampton was one of two Englishmen to make the final 20 of the 2014 FIWC, but there was a familiar tale of valiant defeat as his German team lost 3-1 to the Brazil side controlled by Denmark’s August Rosenmeier in the final.
The final itself was held overlooking Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Sugarloaf Mountain and was the culmination of a tournament which started late last year.
Almost two million players entered the online stages of the competition which were contested over six ‘seasons’ held between October 2013 and April 2014 on the Playstation Network for players of FIFA 14 on the Playstation 3.
Players could play up to 900 games during each season and the two players with the most points were invited to Rio. However this year, organisers recognised the fact that not everyone has that much time to devote to FIFA, so they also invited the player, or ‘community qualifer’, with the best win ratio from each competition period – so long as they played a minimum of 30 matches.
The 12 season winners and six community qualifiers were joined in the group stages by the defending champion and a representative from the host nation Brazil, determined at a live event prior to the Grand Final.
Bytheway and Rosenmeier fended off competition from France, Ireland and the Netherlands, as well as England’s Ty Walton, to reach the final, which was watched by Brazilian legend Ronaldo and Dwight Yorke.
Rosenmeier was ecstatic at his victory, having gone out in the group stages in Dubai 2012 and losing in the semi-finals in Madrid last year.
“I’m absolutely delighted and I can’t describe how it feels to be champion,” he said. “Denmark isn’t here at the World Cup but we showed them we can play football on the virtual pitch. It was amazing to receive the trophy from Ronaldo.”
In addition to being named the greatest FIFA player on the planet, Rosenmeier received $20,000 (£11,674) and an invite to the Ballon d’Or ceremony later this year.
Bytheway was naturally disappointed that he couldn’t end nine years of hurt and become the first English winner since Chris Bullard in London in 2004, but at least he was able to watch the World Cup quarter-final between Germany and France in the Maracana and meet a number of footballing legends.
Professional gaming and esports are becoming big business, with tournaments such as Major League Gaming streamed online and teams sponsored by major firms like Intel. The FIWC is recognised by Guinness World Records as the largest online gaming tournament in the world, with five million players participating since 2009 alone.
The FIWC has come a long way since the first edition of the tournament was held at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich on the original Xbox in 2004, and FIFA hopes it will continue to grow.
“Congratulations to August Rosenmeier for winning what was a highly competitive FIFA Interactive World Cup, with huge engagement from the online community,” said FIFA Head of Strategy & Brand Management, Ralph Straus. “It was a tense and exciting final showdown, played in one of the world’s most iconic settings. The value of the FIFA Interactive World Cup brand continues to grow year on year and we’re already looking forward to raising the bar even further next year.”
Of course there is a marketing angle to the FIWC. Both Sony and EA Sports are official partners of FIFA and the fact that the tournament is an officially-sanctioned FIFA competition gives the game a huge amount of publicity and prestige, while giving the Playstation bragging rights, if not a sales advantage, over Xbox.