FIFA made more money from gaming than from real-life football last year

FIFA earned more from gaming than it did from the real-life recreation final 12 months after the fans went online due to the pandemic.

While major tournaments including the Club World Cup, Futsal World Cup and the U20 and U17 Women’s World Cups were all postponed in 2020 due to Covid, video gaming came into its own.

Broadcast income associated with those traditional tournaments plummeted from an expected £129 million to just over £1m, but cash generated through licensing rights, which is dominated by gaming, shot up, finishing 40% above the budget at £115m.

“Due to the lack of tournaments played in 2020, the sale of licensing rights… produced the lion’s share of the revenue generated,’ FIFA noted in its annual report.

“A key source of revenue in the licensing rights area was brand licensing for video games. In contrast to the many economic sectors that were drastically affected by COVID-19, the video game industry proved far more resilient to the pandemic.”

FIFA responded quickly and creatively to the pandemic and staged five esports tournaments during the year, with prize money of up to £70,000 for the winners.

The most prestigious event last year was the FIFA eClub World Cup in which North Americans Complexity Gaming defeated Gareth Bale’s eSports team, Ellevens, 2-1 in a penalty shootout to claim a £31,000 prize.

“In a year when most of FIFA’s competitive gaming competitions could not go ahead as planned, the FIFAe team had to get creative in its engagement of gamers, players and fans,” FIFA added.

That tournament was held in Milan in February and was the last to take place face-to-face.

Only slightly less serious was the FIFA eNations Stay And Play Friendlies, which brought top esports stars and footballers together to represent their nations during more than 100 games in a week of international action.

The event aimed to encourage people to stay safe at home and avoid exposure to the virus.

The partnership between EA Sports and FIFA has been mutually beneficial and stretched back to the launch of the perennially popular online game, 28 years ago.

EA Sports’ parent company Electronic Arts (EA), reported revenue for the last quarter of last year was up £58million from the same period in 2019 to £1.2 billion, according to The Telegraph.

And the FIFA 21 edition is its most successful launch ever. The market values EA at £28billion, compared to Manchester United, the largest publicly-quoted football club in the world, which is valued at £2billion.

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