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Gamers find new ways to get kicks

By Shi Futian in Shenzhen, Guangdong province | China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-05 11:43
File photo of retired Argentine soccer player Hernan Crespo (center). [Photo/VCG]

Tencent, EA Sports unveil new releases for digital World Cup

In a prelude to next month's World Cup finals in Russia, Chinese tech giant Tencent and video game developer EA Sports on Thursday announced that new PC online soccer game FIFA Online 4 and mobile game FIFA Mobile will be released ahead of the opening kickoff of the global showcase.

In a unique departure from regular releases, the new games will form the framework of a nationwide e-sports World Cup tournament to be run in conjunction with the exact schedule of the competition in Russia - meaning a different champion could be crowned in the digital world.

"This is an important and happy year for soccer fans as the World Cup will be held, and it's also a significant year for soccer in e-sports," Mars Hou, a senior manager of Tencent Interactive Entertainment, said at Thursday's media conference in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

"We will launch the e-sports tournament on June 14, at the exact same time as the first match of the World Cup in Russia.

"There will be two tournaments, including a team competition of FIFA Online 4 on the PC end and individual competition of FIFA Mobile. This month we will start our qualifying competitions with the help of many online live broadcasting platforms and our partners."

The new games and the tournaments are a result of a cooperation between Tencent and EA sports that started with the introduction of FIFA Online 3.

"With the World Cup coming, we are enhancing our relationship with Tencent," said Peter Tseng, vice-president of Group GM Asia Studios of EA.

"The deep cooperation between EA and Tencent made FIFA Online 3 the No 1 sports game in China."

A couple of retired international soccer legends joined Thursday's festivities to demonstrate their gaming skills in a head-to-head FIFA Mobile match.

"This the first time for me to play the game, so I need more practice," former Argentine great Hernan Crespo quipped after battling to a scoreless draw against Portugal legend Luis Figo.

"I always enjoy gaming on the internet, so I really want to have great performance in the digital soccer world," added Figo.

FIFA International Soccer, the global governing body's first foray into video games, was released by EA Sports in 1993. After years of development, the first edition of FIFA's online series - a massive multiplayer game - was released in 2010.

Launched in 2013, Tencent joined the party by becoming the official publisher of FIFA Online 3 in China. The game inspired the creation of the FIFA Online Star League - one of the nation's most popular e-sports competitions.

Creating digital versions of 'The Beautiful Game' involves complex licensing procedures. The two new releases required copyright from FIFA and teams in the Chinese Super League, and Portuguese megastar Cristiano Ronaldo, along with Figo and Chinese star Feng Xiaoting are brand ambassadors.

"EA Sports FIFA Online 4 and FIFA Mobile will have three key licenses," said Tseng.

"The first is the FIFA license. For China's audience and for the first time, we are also licensed by the Chinese Super League. Finally, we will present the exclusive FIFA World Cup Russia license."

FIFA is not alone. Tencent has also been cooperating with the NBA to develop basketball games such as The Strongest NBA, now part of many e-sports tournaments in China. Formula One has also been launching its games and holding e-sports competition for many years.

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