FIFA 18 eSports: What is the FIFA eWorld Cup & will gaming be at the Olympics?

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The most skilled players of EA Sports' huge football title can now make a very comfortable living competing in tournaments around the world

Nowadays, you really can make a living by playing video games.

Competitive gaming - known as eSports - has experienced a huge boom in recent years and formal tournaments around the world hand out millions of dollars of prize money.

The most popular gamers have also been able to make a living through what was once just a hobby by attracting huge numbers of subscribers to their videos and streams on sites such as YouTube and Twitch.

At the forefront of this new wave of competition has been EA Sports' FIFA, the most popular football game on the market.

Goal has your complete guide to how the FIFA eSports world works and the biggest events it revolves around.


WHAT IS FIFA 18 eSPORTS?


Sadio Mane Liverpool

As it stands, 'eSports' is the catch-all phrase for competitive video gaming, a world FIFA has become an increasingly prominent part of in recent years.

That makes sense, of course, seeing as FIFA is literally a simulation of a sport, making it a natural fit for organised competition between gamers.

The growth of its competitive scene has been accelerated by the advance of online gaming over the past decade, with players all over the world now able to go head-to-head whenever they want with the touch of a few buttons.

That has resulted in the explosion of Ultimate Team as a game mode and the creation of regular online tournaments.

EA Sports has gradually begun to formalise and run these competitions. The first FIFA Interactive World Cup held back in 2004 and now there are thousands of online games played per day, with the new eWorld Cup set to take centre stage as the showpiece tournament of the year in 2018.

The Ultimate Championship Series was also introduced in 2017 and the calendar continues to constantly evolve.


WHAT IS THE FIFA eWORLD CUP?


The FIFA eWorld Cup is a new competition planned for 2018 and will take over from the FIFA Interactive World Cup as the biggest event on the competitive FIFA calendar.

It will be the culmination of multiple different formats of qualification EA is grouping together under the umbrella of a 'Global Series'.

The actual eWorld Cup looks like it will be much the same as the Interactive World Cup, with 32 participants competing at a Grand Final held at a specific location and broadcast live.

But the qualification process is undergoing a bit of a revamp and there's a few ways to pick up a controller and get involved.

The qualification process

In 2017, all but two of the 32 spots at the Interactive World Cup were allocated to players who had qualified through various FUT Champions competitions, which are - to begin with - open to everyone to enter.

The last two spots were allocated to the finalists at the first FIFA Interactive Club World Cup, which sees professional football clubs with eSports divisions send their best players.

In 2018, things are getting a little more complex.

As was the case during the last cycle, there will still be three opportunities - or 'seasons' - in which players can make a bid for the eWorld Cup through mass-entry FUT Champions competitions (now called FUT Champions Cups). The first starts on November 3.

The Interactive Club World Cup - also rebranded to the eClub World Cup - will also be back for another year.

But on top of that, there are two new qualifying categories.

FIFA 18 Global Series

The first is referred to as 'league partner qualifying competitions', which EA has not revealed much about but will give players the chance to represent their favourite club in an official league competition.

The second is licensed qualifying competitions, which will be operated by "top-tier external partners, sponsors and competitive gaming organizations around the world" and will give top players the opportunity to play more organised, competitive FIFA.

But those four routes no longer lead directly into the eWorld Cup.

Instead, the winners who come out of those qualifying methods will go into the Global Series Playoffs, which will consist of two live events (presumably one for PS4 and one for Xbox One) of 64 players each in June 2018.

At each event, the field of 64 will be whittled down to 16 who qualify for the eWorld Cup.

The Grand Final

As mentioned, there will continue to be 32 players at the Grand Final (the moniker that has been adopted for the main eWorld Cup tournament).

In 2017, the field was split in half between PlayStation and Xbox players and they each played in their own bracket on their preferred console.

Then, once the tournament had reached the final, the last players standing on each console met over two legs, with one match played on each system.

The winner of that tie - Spencer Ealing, known as 'GORILLA' - was crowned the FIFA world champion.

You can probably expect the eWorld Cup to take on a similar format this year despite the completely new branding.


WILL eSPORTS BE IN THE OLYMPICS?


Paris Olympic Games

eSports is already a huge industry in its own right, even if it remains in its infancy relative to other sports.

And while the definition of online gaming as a sport remains contentious, the increasing awareness of the level of interest it is attracting among young people is starting to turn the tide.

"We have to look at it because we can't say, 'It's not us. It's not about Olympics,'" the co-president of the Paris bid for the 2024 Olympic Games, Tony Estanguet, told the Associated Press in August.

"The youth, yes, they are interested in eSport and this kind of thing. Let's look at it. Let's meet them. Let's try [and see] if we can find some bridges."

Paris later won the bid and will host the Games in 2024.

If they do decide to include eSports, they may be able to look to the Olympic Council of Asia for guidance. They plan to make eSports a medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games.

A test was run at the Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Games earlier this year, with Hearthstone, Dota 2, StarCraft II and The King of Fighters XIV played on a trial basis with no medals awarded.

Initially, the plan had been for a sports franchise - either FIFA or NBA 2k - to be part of that dry run but in the end neither title was involved.

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