Football is played worldwide by millions, both on grass pitches and virtual pitches in people’s homes.
It’s the most popular sport in the world, with leading clubs supported not only in their own country but globally. The top players have millions of followers on social media, and video games such as FIFA make billions for their developers each year. There’s no surprise NFTs, and digital assets have penetrated the industry with such reach.
However, such ventures have proven to be both hits and misses, and it is hard for a digital asset developer to see exactly what will work and what will not. For instance, American-owned Liverpool is one of the world’s most successful teams, with supporters clubs in Asia, Africa, and Europe. They seem the perfect brand to launch an NFT range, yet it flopped when they did. They sold around 5% of their offering, a huge disappointment to everyone involved.
Video game developer EA Sports has also cooled on the idea of NFTs. Their FIFA game, soon to be rebranded as EA Sports FC, seemed ripe for NFT inclusion. The Ultimate Team game mode involves players buying and selling assets to put into their teams, and turning those into tangible digital assets seems a reasonable step.
Forbes reports that their CEO Andrew Wilson has seemingly cooled on including them in the new title, despite once calling them the ‘future of the industry’. Another major name from the world of football backtracking is FC Barcelona, who ended their partnership with Ownix just days before a range was due to launch.
Barcelona is one of the teams that have found success with digital assets in the football world. Fan tokens, released on the Socios platform, have been embraced by supporters. The Spanish giants made $1.3m in a single day of sales, and they’re not the only teams to benefit. AC Milan made $6m from their fan token release and saw the value of the asset rise when they hit the top spot in Serie A.
They were then the first club to release an NFT on the Socios app, giving them free to anyone with ten or more of their $ACM tokens. That release was a success, but why? Why did it do well over the Liverpool NFT? Because it was free and released as a tangible benefit to fan tokens, which already offer supporters digital influence? Perhaps.
Whilst EA Sports FC wrestles with digital asset inclusion and seems to be giving up before they’ve started, Sorare is a platform that has successful amalgamated NFTs and video games. That’s no mean feat; curiously, gamers are among the staunchest critics of the NFT industry, but Sorare has bucked the trend and seen a growth in their NFT-based game. It works on a similar principle to EA Sports’ Ultimate Team mode; gamers can buy and sell players in the form of NFTs, pitting them against other players. Instead of winning with a controller in your hand, your team performs as the players do in real life. It’s an interesting concept, and it’s not the only NFT-based football game being greeted with enthusiasm. Goals is a Swedish start-up seeking to combine real match action with NFTs, although these will be fictional players you can train, play with and trade. It will be in development a little while longer, but fans are certainly interested.
Why do games like Sorare and Goals pique interest whilst EA Sports see pushback on their plans? It’s a question developers will be keen to answer. It seems fans partly do not want their existing experience impacted but are willing to dabble in something completely new. When it comes to fan tokens, supporters again appear to react to a digital asset that gives them a tangible benefit, but not when they pay out money for an NFT alone.
There’s no doubt that football is a great market for digital developers to penetrate, but it is clearly beset with pitfalls that must be negotiated to succeed. Socios and Sorare know how to do it; can others follow suit?