This week, I have been spending time of my normal beat with considered one of West Ham United’s summer season signings. Even diehard fans of the Optimal League club can also, however, be unfamiliar with Sean Allen. It’s because Sean – additionally called Dragon – has made his call now not as the new striker the Hammers need but as a champion player of the Fifa video game Web list Posting. In might also, West Ham became the first Ideal League club to sign an e-sports activities player, observed in July via Manchester Metropolis who signed up Kieran “Kez” Brown. Both golf equipment trust that e-sports are about to take off in a big way, and this form of circulating will show their fans and the gaming community that they are severe about getting worried.
I met Sean Allen at West Ham’s training ground wherein he watched the primary crew teach, sat in on a press conference given by supervisor Slaven Bilic, then played a sport of Fifa with a celebrity participant Cheikhou Kouyate. He received five-0 by using the manner. 24-12 months-antique Sean’s career course on the way to turning into an e-sports activities superstar has now not been easy. He began playing in tournaments whilst he became 16 and received £500 inside the first event he entered. But two years ago, he becomes on the verge of giving it up: “I decided I was too old at 22, I offered my Xbox,” he tells me.
However, he kept on plugging away, and then this yr got a large destroy, qualifying for the Fifa Interactive International Cup, an occasion he’d been trying to get into for years. He went to Big apple for the event and ended up in the final, losing narrowly to the Danish champion and coming away with $5000. That’s when West Ham got here calling; having signed for the club, Sean can now commit himself to gamble the sport complete time. I would assume he spent all his waking hours in front of his console at his domestic in Taunton – but he says that isn’t always the case.
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When a new version comes out every September, he does immerse himself in it – “at the start you’ve got to install plenty of hours and learn the sport internal out, Then I play an unhealthy quantity – maybe 10 hours a day.” but once he’s learned all of the hints of the new edition he says he handiest plays on event days, three or 4 days every week. Now he’s gearing up for Fifa 17, which arrives in September.
West Ham now expects him to symbolize the club when he performs competitively and engages with their own fans who play Fifa. The club has moved into the Olympic Stadium – now renamed the London Stadium – and its head of digital marketing Karim Virani says it was looking for methods of boosting the West Ham brand: “We are searching for alternatives to having interaction and interact with our fan base in new and ingenious approaches. E-sports activities are growing crazily – over 250 million human beings comply with it globally.”
He tells me he can foresee an afternoon while it’s miles full of spectators for an online game, looking across the astonishing stadium. In fact, that already occurs in South Korea, where the very last of a League of Legends event packed out a stadium in Seoul. However, I am not quite convinced that soccer groups trying to cash in on e-sports activities are backing the right recreation with Fifa because the actual cash is being made someplace else.
Even superstar gamers like Sean Allen are only making a distinctly modest living from match prizes. The winner of the Fifa International Cup, the most important contest in that recreation, earned $20,000. However, the prize pool for the Dota 2 tournament this 12 months amounted to $20m (£15m). And whilst star games of video games like Dota 2 and League of Legends attract subscribers of their hundreds of thousands on Twitch, the streaming video service, only some hundred sign on to observe big-name Fifa players. Nevertheless, Each West Ham and Manchester Town has a future where e-sports activities ought to % out the Etihad or the London Stadium. Do not be surprised if transfer information inside the destiny consists of gamers whose skills are centered on their thumbs, not their ft.