Released in indifference on September 12th on Switch, Golazo! is a little football game where you only play national teams with unofficial jerseys, with players with an imaginary name, in fictitious competitions. Tribute to a time when the actors of the world of football did not deign to negotiate with those of the video game. That this era is over! The blockbuster FIFA 20, which comes out Friday, September 27, highlights Eden Hazard in the jersey of Real Madrid, offers the entire Champions League and Europa League, and real stages modeled with incredible attention to detail, as the Groupama Stadium.
In twenty years, the now lucrative world of pixel has seduced the wealthy sector of the ball. And contrary to what one can imagine, it is not (only) with hard currency and stumbling. The figures attest to this: for an exclusive partnership with Konami (eFootball Pro Evolution Soccer 2020 or PES 2020) at least two seasons, AS Monaco pocketed a check with five zeros. A coin, compared to the 32 million television revenues received for its participation in Ligue 1 in 2018-2019. For its part, UEFA has received around ten million euros for the world rights of the Champions League, when RMC Sport has aligned more than 300 million just for the French territory.
A medium perceived as strategic
So why this sport interest for these simulations? The reasons are numerous. "In the economy of football players today, video games play a small role, with sums that do not represent much, or almost nothing, related to their income. But it is important for the Leagues to offer their rights for reasons of notoriety and image "explains Jean-François Brocard, researcher at the Center for Sport Law and Economics (CDES).
UEFA marketing director Guy-Laurent Epstein, who has handed over UEFA Champions League rights to Electronic Arts and Euro 2020 to Konami, has a strategic promotional dimension. "The target gamers, in terms of age, is very important to us, and full of studies show that those who play video games are more likely to practice the sport, but it is fundamental for us to develop the practice . "
These simulations also serve as a Trojan horse to better understand football consumers, thanks to the data they collect. In FIFA games, for example, it is possible to formally support a club – one of the different pieces of information Electronic Arts can play behind. "We have access to a number of aggregated anonymous information about users, trends, the most active age group, the most followed teams, etc. ", lists Peter Dennis, the UEFA Licensing Manager.
E-sport, a machine to rejuvenate the audience
One aspect is unanimous: the youth of the players, while the traditional disciplines are threatened by the aging of their audience. "There is a financial issue, but above all it is important for the clubs because (the video game) makes it possible to reach a difficult audience, that of young people, by getting closer to them », confirms World Juli Ferre Nadal, sales and marketing director of AS Monaco.
Giorgio Ricci, CFO of Juventus, has justified the three-year exclusivity contract between Konami and the Old Lady for demographic reasons. " This agreement (…) will allow our younger fans to identify more easily with us; and for us to increase our aura with sports and e-sports fans "he said in a statement.
In this respect, e-sport – the sport of video games – is particularly popular among football players: eFIFA World Cup, eChampion's League, eEuro 2020 … these electronic competitions are a way for institutions sometimes centuries old 'offer a wrinkle-free face lift, as well as a commercial development axis, in which all want to believe, despite still minor audiences. " Football (virtual football competitions) is very small compared to Fortnite and League of Legends, recognizes Juli Ferre Nadal, but we think it will develop. "
The e-Ligue 1, played last season on FIFA 19, already enjoying a highlight on BeIN Sports, while the final of the first eChampion's League was held in the Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid, a few hours before the coronation of Liverpool in the final of the Champions League. Who knows if, in the future, TV rights will not include an e-sports component? "E-football is part of our assets and will become more important in the future", says UEFA's Guy-Laurent Epstein.
A way to reach Asia and South America
The other advantage of the video game is to touch players around the world, like the final of the eChampion's League 2019, the virtual version of the most famous competition of the Old Continent, won by a player … American . An argument to which clubs are very sensitive, at a time when the strategies of the biggest teams are no longer played at continental but global level, with the conquest of Asian and American markets.
"These are two big international brands, details Juli Ferre Nadal. Konami is very strong in Asia, and despite their backwardness in Europe over FIFAthey are very strong in Asia and South America. They bring internationalization », an axis of development assumed for the club of the Rock, as for the PSG.
The club of the capital, him, made the choice since 2011 of the license the most sold in the world, and prolonged its agreement to be put forward in FIFA until 2024. "We know that a lot of people who follow Paris-Saint-Germain, especially our fans around the world, regularly play the different games created by EA Sports", congratulated the club's sponsorship director, Marc Armstrong, on the announcement of the renewal.
Exclusivity, a question of exposure
It remains to be seen in which game to place. FIFA, PES, or both ? Here again the question is strategic. "It is an image effect to say that we negotiated an exclusive contract: this places the club in a gotha", decrypts Jean-François Brocard, while regretting sometimes the "Stowaway strategy" – clubs that play the individual card to put themselves forward, even devaluing their national rivals and their championship of belonging, as Juventus of Turin, highlighted in eFootball PES 2020, while Konami does not have rights on most other Italian clubs.
Other actors refuse, on the contrary, the logic of exclusivity, like the Ligue 1, championship accessible to the players of the two creameries. the Professional Football League (LFP) sees EA and Konami as two "Important partners because of the media impact they generate" and considers that having its elements "Represented in both games is essential" in terms of exposure and notoriety.
Behind this desire to spare the goat and cabbage, the finding of a lower standard than its foreign competitors such as the Spanish Liga or the English Premier League. "Ligue 1 is not yet a premium league, resituates Jean-François Brocard. She needs to be everywhere to increase her notoriety. The cursor is not on profitability but on visibility. Everyone is not on the same footing. " Players to deal with.