FIFA and the American Public

By | January 26, 2015

 

Growing up in a soccer-crazed family, I was introduced to the game at an incredibly young and impressionable age. Born right-footed, my grandfather used to take me outside and force me to kick with my left for hours until my weakness became a strength. However, while I was practicing set pieces in my backyard, my friends were generally shooting a basketball around or throwing a football. Don’t get me wrong; soccer was an incredibly popular sport at my local elementary school, with intense pick-up games happening seemingly every other day. But at the end of the day, it always took the backseat to the more traditionally “American” sports that could be watched at almost any time of the day with one or two clicks of the TV remote. While my friends would discuss the latest Lakers or Dodgers game, I was watching video of Hernán Crespo, Lilian Thuram, and Pavel Nedved.

However, despite the fact that nearly 100,000 less children are actively playing soccer in the United States (compared to 2008), it appears as though the majority of my close friends have become increasingly more knowledgeable about the game itself and some of its star players. The question is, “what factor has accounted for this increased knowledge?” The answer is very simple. The FIFA video game series. Each year, FIFA releases a slightly modified and newer version of the game, with new kits, updated squads and polished features. In playing the game, our youth has been unconsciously introduced to some of the game’s biggest stars and teams that do not receive quite the same level of press as the Manchester United or Real Madrid’s of the soccer world. You must not only select your team before playing, but you must alter the lineup and discover for yourself what tactics prove to be successful and what just doesn’t work. In the process, individuals begin to discover their favorite team, players and maybe even league. Additionally, FIFA has made a concerted effort to appeal to the wider American audience by approaching several American celebrities and athletes who don’t regularly brand themselves as soccer fans. From Snoop Dogg to Steve Nash, FIFA has widened its reach over the American public. Total unit sales of the series in the U.S. topped five million over the past two years, according to market research firm NPD. This 35% jump in unit sales has closed the gap between FIFA and its biggest North American competition – Madden NFL and NBA 2K.

Most children in the United States have been exposed to professional football, basketball or baseball on TV before they even purchase one of those sports’ video games. FIFA on the other hand has allowed millions of these previously uninformed individuals to fall in love with the game of soccer. Gamers play FIFA, and instantly, they start to identify each team’s stars. The FIFA video game series has enabled millions and millions of American gamers to not only gain a deeper understanding and awareness of the game and its prized players.

 

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8 thoughts on “FIFA and the American Public

  1. Taariq Shabazz

    Fifa is an important aspect of increasing soccer’s popularity in america. For many young athletes including myself, first experiences with sports are through television or video games. The reason behind children looking to video games first is because buying equipment, finding a team, and learning the rules is difficult. However, going to the store to buy the new Fifa, Madden, or 2K game is a lot more accesible to young children.

    Reply
  2. Taariq Shabazz

    Fifa is an important aspect of increasing soccer’s popularity in america. For many young athletes including myself, first experiences with sports are through television or video games. The reason behind children looking to video games first is because buying equipment, finding a team, and learning the rules is difficult. However, going to the store to buy the new Fifa, Madden, or 2K game is a lot more accesible to young children.

    Reply
  3. Nakul Karnik

    Could not agree more about the question whether or not soccer knowledge stems from FIFA the video game. As someone who does not actively follow professional soccer I tend to base my knowledge of player’s skill sets and strengths by their ratings in FIFA. I couldn’t even imagine to tell you how many goals Messi has scored this season, or how well AC Milan faired in Serie A, if it weren’t for Ian Darke’s “illustrious” commentary. Amazing what technology and video games can do…..

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  4. Brian Wolfson

    One of the things I’ve noticed ties into what Deemer said. With the popularity of the video game on the rise, in addition to more Americans interested in global events such as the World Cup, soccer is gaining a lot of popularity from young adults who’ve probably never kicked a soccer ball. However, because they’re now playing FIFA and watching soccer games, they are understanding more and more the sport. Still, if given the opportunity to pass around a ball, they will automatically go to basketball, throwing a football or a baseball — the sports that most teenager Americans grow up playing. I always laugh when I talk to people who say they don’t play soccer because they’re bad at it, but then respond “yet I play FIFA!.” Over the next few years, hopefully people will get interested in soccer at a younger age, so that they can actually play the sport when they’re teenagers and not just watch (or play video games!)

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  5. Connor Shannahan

    I undoubtedly agree that FIFA draws more attention and fans to the sport in the US. My friends and I in high school all got into soccer from FIFA. We eventually found teams we liked to play with and began to follow those teams in real life creating a rivalry we could play and watch. Furthermore, I’m pretty bad at soccer despite playing for at least 8 years, and FIFA gave me the opportunity to reenact what I saw on the field but could not at all execute physically. These two characteristics are why FIFA is so important to me.

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  6. Deemer Class IV

    While I agree with your comment Lukas about the participation levels, I think the bigger impact here is that it is growing the fan base. There are many other factors that affect participation in different North American sports and I think Harrison’s point here really highlights the value of the FIFA video game series by displaying how the interest and knowledge of the game really has expanded through the years. This interest in the video game will lead to more following of the sport itself and interest in professional matches. From there, I would imagine through the years we see the interest level trickle down to lower age groups and help to boost participation numbers.

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  7. James Ziemba

    I love this realization. People have seem to become “soccer experts” without ever kicking around a ball! As I watched the World Cup this summer with friends, I found it comical that they would describe what was going on in the game in terms of FIFA controls. For instance, a player who made a terrific through-ball would be described as “pressing Y” (on the Xbox controller).

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  8. Hyun Moh (John) Shin

    Shame that Krasic couldn’t live up as a successor of the great Neddy! I was so convinced that he was the one..

    Sure it has its side effects, but it is undeniable that the FIFA series serves as a gateway for the people to be introduced to the world of football (as well as a number of sleepless nights..)

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