I am willing to say that more people in America know that Bohemians FC is a bottom-of-the-barrel soccer team in the top division of the Irish soccer league from playing FIFA than from watching soccer games on the television or the Internet. I am also willing to say that more people know the depth charts of their favorite NFL team because of creating their own players in Madden to replace people than from actually watching games. Finally, I’m willing to say that sports video games have led to a higher incidence of people learning about the tougher-to-understand rules such as offsides in soccer.
I firmly believe that sports video games are something that have boosted the visibility of players, teams, and sports that many people did not know about. American sport culture is not one that supports soccer as a mainstream sport (however, it is the fourth-most-attended sport in the United States), but between decent performances of the US National team and the growth of online multi-player video gaming, many more people know about the sport.
With a game that sold well over 14 million copies worldwide (FIFA 11), EA Sports has proven that anything is playable with an online component. Teams and leagues worldwide know that the visibility in a game will boost them up, especially with the addition of game modes that focus on players and team-building like Ultimate Team in Madden and FIFA.
I would have to agree that fantasy sports have done this for the major sports, but most of the individuals who do this are much more passionate about their sport in general. While I have known quite a few people who participate in fantasy football for fun or even in a pool, those that I have known are not as likely to keep following individuals or other teams. Money is the big factor. To me, fantasy games have traditionally been for the bigger fans. As a first step, sports video games are better to get someone intrigued.
One of the main reasons this has happened was the growth of the social video game from the Wii. Due to this system’s growth, more people are playing video games that had not before. At least part of those people have started playing sports games, as sports games sales have been on the rise. Madden and FIFA have seen an unprecedented rise lately.
Another reason for the rise in playing and growing to love the game is the growth of achievements and obstacles to unlock in the game, so people are opened up to different teams and parts of the sport they aren’t familiar with. Some proof for this is the current leaderboards in a new game mode in FIFA that sees fans support their club and give them virtual titles. Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid are not the top of the table by a long shot, showing that people are finding different ones to support. In addition, this year’s NCAA Football made individuals play with different teams than they normally would to get harder achievements unlocked. Forcing gamers to branch out has made more fans.
I know many people will argue that I’m trying to force something here that isn’t actually the case. However, I know of many people who follow much more in soccer because of what they learned in FIFA. They like to watch the game because they understand it, and the lack of understanding has been an often-used complaint by Americans who don’t watch it. I know I watched more hockey after playing NHL Hitz 2002.