The Virtual Football Organization (VFO) launched in late 2016 with a new take on FIFA esports utilising the Pro Clubs mode. For the uninitiated this means 11 v 11. To date, the limited but growing FIFA esports scene has focused exclusively on 1 on 1, and a number of traditional clubs have signed their own players this year with two Premier League clubs, PSG, Ajax and a host of German clubs amongst others now boasting their own pro gamer.
The VFO decided to go down a different route, and have ensured that a number (seven and counting) La Liga clubs are on board. Marc Diaz Williams, VFO Executive, answered our questions on whether this format can captivate an audience, what the format of the league will be and what’s this about a transfer market….
Esports Insider: How can the 11v11 format in FIFA take off and prove as popular, or indeed more so, than 1v1? How will it work from a viewership perspective, there are clearly chances to be creative here…
Marc: We believe that the reason the 11vs11 hasn’t really taken off is mainly due to how hard it is to find other players that will take the mode seriously. VFO will provide a solution to this by letting captains of teams find players that not only want to play competitively, but also with a particular style (counter attack, possession etc). There are plenty of players out there, it’s more a matter of how to find each other.
When you play with 10 other mates against another team of 11 players and you do it in a coordinated and strategic way it is an awesome feeling. Scoring that winning goal in the 92nd minute with your team creates a sense of accomplishment that stays with you for days. It’s those epic moments you are always looking for in the EA SPORTS FIFA franchise and in 11vs11 you get to share them with a whole squad.
Esports Insider: Will LAN events form a big part of this? This could be great as an experience with 11v11 but will need a lot of space and a big budget to pull off…
Marc: We already set up a LAN event in the Barcelona Games World, and as we predicted, once gamers tried 11vs11 they were hooked.
We had massive lines to try out in front of the Villareal CF, Sevilla FC and Valencia CF captains who were there at the event. The VFO has in its strategic plan to bring the best teams in Spain for a LAN event, what is not certain is if that will be for the first or second season. If we go by the images of the event, you can see its actually not an overly complex set up, and we plan on not following your typical table set up from other esports. We are football and as such we plan on pitting each player face to face, team vs team.
We tested this in Barcelona and it enhances the experience when you can celebrate a goal with your teammates while your opponent can see the celebration, just like on the pitch. Psychology is a big part of FIFA and we want this to be part of the tools that teams bring to the players during face to face.
Esports Insider: Seven La Liga teams now involved. Are you in talks with more, or will season one be all Spain?
Marc: We allow any team from La Liga to participate and they are joining up daily. We are currently at 14 teams between the first and second divisions. We also have 5 professional esports teams that will pair up against the traditional football teams.. we are very excited at this unique combination.
We even have companies creating their own teams such as Philips and Lenovo. They aren’t just sponsors, they’re active participants that have created their own teams and are going to go head to head with esports teams as well as traditional football teams.
Esports Insider: Can you tell us some more about how the promotion/relegation league format will play out, how long seasons will last and what the prize money will be? There has been a mention of the involvement of ‘amateur’ teams – what must they do to be involved?
Marc: It’s quite a simple format if you are used to regular football leagues. The top team moves up a division automatically and the second and third place play a promotional leg.
The last team in the league is automatically relegated and the second to last two play that same relegation leg against the top of the lower division. We are currently at five divisions.
We will have two leagues per year and in between an exciting three week transfer market where teams will try to convince top players to leave their current teams and join them elsewhere. We expect the transfer market to be as exciting as the actual league. Who doesn’t like the transfer gossip in football?
As far as amateurs are concerned, here is an aspect we are extremely excited about. Any player regardless of skill or experience can look for a team or create one with his mates within the VFO. They will start at the bottom (5th Division) but if they win they will jump to fourth division and so on. The VFO is created so that amateurs who truly work and train could end up playing against Valencia CF or Sevilla CF with time and dedication. They will have to fight off teams trying to poach their players as they move up in divisions, but hey.. that’s football.
Esports Insider: When is it and what’s in-store for the launch?
Marc: Our first season starts at the end of January and beginning of February. We have a very exciting opening match with two virtual La Liga teams going head to head for the first time in virtual history.. pretty cool stuff for those who love both football and video games!