Usually, people play lots of sports video games because they know they’ll never get to work for an actual sports team.
But for the U.K.’s David Bytheway, playing sports video games actually earned him a job with an actual sports team. The BBC reports that German Bundesliga squad Wolfsburg has signed Bytheway to play EA Sport’s FIFA video game for them, representing the team at gaming competitions, wearing their memorabilia and playing as them in tournaments.
Via BBC’s Newsbeat:
Speaking to Newsbeat, he says: “It’s absolutely massive for me the fact that a team like Wolfsburg have gotten involved with gaming.
“It was just something I was doing at home to start with, just playing my friends and wanting to be the best out of them, and all of a sudden I’m a part of a football club.”
Wolfsburg is on the cutting edge of what figures to be an emergent relationship between traditional sports and eSports. The online gaming market continues to grow, with events selling out arenas and appearing on ESPN. The best eSports players can reach quasi-celebrity status within the gaming community, so it makes sense pro sports team would seek to partner with gamers to advertise directly to that audience, likely highly targeted celebrity pitchmen.
Wolfsburg is one of the first teams to sign a FIFA-playing representative, but it won’t likely be the last. Bytheway told BBC he hopes an English Premier League team jumps into the eSports world soon.
David says while his signing is not big news at the moment, in the future it might be seen as a turning point for FIFA gamers.
“Right now it’s not exactly historic, but in five years’ time when we look back at this we’ll think, ‘Wow they really started something here’.
“Less than a year, I hope, before the first Premier League team does this as well.”
There’s no reason similar agreements couldn’t come to the United States as well. Back in 2005, ESPN aired a reality show about Madden players, called Madden Nation, and on May 21 2K Sports is hosting an NBA 2K16 tournament with $250,000 in prizes. ESPN recently launched an eSports vertical, proving the network’s investment in the gaming market. It figures it’s only a matter of time before we see professional 2K players wearing Warriors jerseys and paid Madden contestants donning Patriots gear.
Imagine watching El Clasico being played on FIFA between a gamer signed by Barcelona and a gamer signed by Real Madrid surrounded by fans of both teams. It may not be on an actual soccer field but the rivalry and atmosphere will still be there. It’s certainly something to ponder for the future.
[Photo: David Bytheway Facebook]