In 2015, David Bytheway became the first ever Brit to be signed up as an official eSports athlete to a top level football club as VFL Wolfsburg made the pioneering decision to sign David to represent them in FIFA tournaments.
Since then, FIFA as an eSport has gone from strength to strength, television channels such as BT Sports in the UK and Fox Sports in the USA have begun televising live FIFA tournaments, whilst Newszoo,– a website which provides viewing figures of eSport streams, have declared that FIFA streams had an audience of over 500,000 people in the month of February alone and expect it to be one of the top 10 most watched eSport games this year and beyond.
With such a large audience, viewers are even able to place bets on FIFA tournaments in the same way they would if they were watching a real football match – FIFA as an eSport is set to become massive and David Bytheway is experiencing this for himself. Representing Wolfsburg, DaveBTW chats to our reporter Iain Fenton about his dream job, being treated like a professional football player and the future of FIFA as an eSport.
David Bytheway Profile:
Name: David Bytheway
Did you ever think it would be possible to earn money playing FIFA? Would you call what you’re doing now your dream job?
DaveBTW: I always knew earning money for playing FIFA was a possibility, but as a salary I was always skeptical of how high it could go as in recent years it hasn’t made a big impact on competitive gaming. With EA now hosting their own tournaments with big viewings, it’s going to rise and rise.
Half a year on, what are your thoughts on being a pro FIFA player? Is it what you expected?
DaveBTW: Being a pro FIFA player is always nice but it definitely adds a lot of pressure. All of a sudden you’ve gone from playing in your room with no responsibility to representing massive football clubs.
Do you use any mental game coaches in order to help you with the pressure? Do Wolfsburg provide you with any support like this or is?
DaveBTW: I don’t think FIFA is at a stage where a coach is needed, I’m not sure it ever will be. Other games that are more tactical, you can see why but for me, it’s not needed in FIFA.
Esports by numbers.
- BBC figures report esports are set for £1bn revenue and 600 million audiences by 2020,
- FIFA came in 11th as the most watched eSport on Twitch, with an audience of 500,000 views in February alone,
- Television broadcasters such as BT Sports and Fox Sports have also picked up the broadcasting rights to televise FIFA 17 tournaments to their audiences.
Have you ever been to Wolfsburg?
DaveBTW: I have been to Wolfsburg many times. They always treat me like a player of the club.
Have you ever thought about using their facilities to improve your own performances?
DaveBTW: I like to see myself as a pretty active person. I go to the gym at home but I can definitely see how it might help. Healthy mind = clear mind.
Reasons for the huge rise in popularity of esports.
- streaming, online broadcasting and other eSports content on Twitch and YouTube platforms;
- support from traditional sports leagues;
- A boost in the market for fantasy sports & esports betting;
- attention from the side of mass media and talent agencies;
- official recognition of eSports at the country level, etc.
How do you see the future of FIFA eSports? Do real football clubs have to get involved in order to help eSports and FIFA grow?
DaveBTW: I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary for clubs to be involved for FIFA in eSports to grow. We just needed that little push from EA, but what a lot of people don’t seem to see is that on FIFA, there are two companies. It’s not just EA, it’s the FIFA federation as well so they both have to work together and everyone has to be on the same page. Now we’re getting the bigger tournaments more consistently, as opposed to just one offs, as well as having the YouTube personalities involved; we have everything we need to grow. The clubs will obviously help but I definitely think we can still grow without them.
Do you think it’s in the football club’s best interests to help eSports grow? Or will the future see eSports as a direct rival to so called ‘real sports’?
DaveBTW: I think it’s definitely in their interests. They are businesses so it has to be worth it. I think it’s like any investment really, it’s always in your best interests to do whatever possible to maximize your exposure and return.