Even to keen gamers and avid sports fans, the idea of eSports may seem like another world. But now, we’re seeing big names entering the arena, with Wolverhampton Wanderers recently launching their own eSports team in China. The Premier League club has partnered with Weibo eSports Club, one of China’s most well-known eSports clubs.
Newly formed Wolves Weibo eSports will play FIFA Online 4 in the FIFA Online 4 Star League, continuing their growth in the eSports sector.
What is eSports?
Put simply, eSports refers to organised competitions of professional gaming with spectators. Not just a few spectators either. In 2019, it’s estimated that eSports will be viewed by 427 million people worldwide.
Understandably, the question on many people’s minds is: how did eSports come to be so popular? In truth, the industry has been growing for a number of years. In South Korea, organisations have been licencing professional gamers since the turn of the millennium, with the Korean eSports Association founded in 2000 to promote and regulate the sector.
A boost from online streaming
Online streaming services gave eSports the boost it needed in the 2010s, with platforms like Twitch and YouTube allowing gamers to live-stream organised competitions with ease. It wasn’t long before game developers recognised the industry, incorporating it into a number of popular games, with the likes of Dota 2 and StarCraft II designed with professional competition and streaming in mind.
Looking specifically at football, there are regular competitions on FIFA video games around the world. The FIFA eWorld Cup (or FIFA Interactive World Cup) is held by FIFA and EA Sports every year, with millions competing to reach the final stages. The tournament has even been recognised as the world’s largest eSports game by Guinness World Records.
Wolves moving into eSports
With so many people playing eSports around the world, it’s no wonder Wolves wanted to get involved. Their first move into eSports came at the start of their 2018-19 Premier League campaign, when they launched a partnership with Bundled. Formed in 2001, the company provides a range of eSports services and works alongside other European eSports teams like Feyenoord and Ajax.
Bundled will work with Wolves to recruit eSports players, organise gaming events and create content to boost Wolves’ presence at FIFA eSports tournaments.
Their eSports journey took a big step forward at the end of February, when Wolves announced a partnership with Jingzong Culture Media Company – owners of Weibo eSports Club. Not only does this expand Wolves’ eSports reach, it opens up a big opportunity to reach the Chinese market more broadly.
As well as owning Weibo eSports Club, Jingzong Culture Media Company is exclusively partnered with Sina, who run China’s most popular microblogging site, Sina Weibo. The site has over 445 million active users, providing a unique opportunity for Wolves to break into the Chinese market.
Wolves’ appetite for technology
It’s not just eSports that Wolves are adding to their belt. The club has also released a new app that uses augmented reality (AR) technology. Produced by US software developers YinzCam, the club’s app will allow fans to apply unique Wolves-themed filters to their faces, with a range of new features to be released over a 12-month roll-out period.
Want to get the latest line-ups, scores and statistics? Fancy watching the latest interviews and highlights? How about purchasing tickets and merchandise? The app will be complete with everything from the latest content to interactive features for fans to enjoy.