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West Ham United signs its first FIFA eSports pro

Engadget Engadget 6/05/2016 Nick Summers
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The FIFA video game franchise has grown into a hotly contested eSports discipline. Just like League of Legends, Dota 2 or Counter-Strike, players travel around the world to compete for coveted titles and cash prizes. Now, FIFA professional Sean "Dragonn" Allen has been signed by a legitimate football (or "soccer," as my American colleagues like to call it) club -- West Ham United, the same team that has Dimitri Payet and Cheikhou Kouyate among its ranks. Of course, Allen won't be competing in the Premier League -- he'll be representing the club at FIFA tournaments instead.

His first outing in a claret and blue shirt will be at Gfinity's "Play Like a Legend Grand Final" this weekend. He'll be competing for a $15,000 prize pool alongside 15 other players, who represent teams such as Epsilon, Millennium and Team Vitality. Just like a regular football game, fans will be able to watch online or at Gfinity's arena in Fulham Broadway, London.

The 24-year-old isn't the first FIFA player to sign for an established football club, however. VFL Wolfsburg made a similar move in May 2015, signing Benedikt "Salzor" Saltzer and Daniel "Dani" Fink through the gaming agency Stark eSports. The partnership was taken a step further in January, when the club signed David "DaveBtw" Bytheway, a 22-year-old Brit.

Right now, these sorts of signings feel like a novelty. But in the future, should eSports prove sustainable, it's possible more teams will take FIFA seriously and sign their own players. Then, if enough people are sponsored by official clubs, it might be possible to create a FIFA "mirror" of real-life football, with countless pros competing in national tournaments like the Premier League and La Liga. Imagine that. Maybe they could play in outdoor stadiums too, sat on the grass with some wireless controllers.

Okay, too far perhaps. But a man can dream, right?

West Ham

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