man playing soccer game on field

In recent years, eSports has developed incredible momentum. Esports teams are springing up like mushrooms, fueling the hype surrounding the burgeoning professional gaming industry. In Germany, the Virtual Bundesliga has been at the heart of eSports since 2012, successfully combining gaming and football.

Sport and entertainment in the era of digitization

Nowadays, there is hardly an area of ​​life that is not influenced by increasing digitization. The world of sports and entertainment is also affected by this trend. The first step in this direction came with the invention of video and the computer games, which created a new entertainment sector and changed how people spend their free time. At the same time, classic forms of entertainment such as board, dice, and card games found their virtual place in online casinos, attracting older generations to the Internet.

With increasing numbers of players, the first gaming tournaments were organized, and the marketing of gaming as a sporting event was started. A significant turning point was the 1997 Red Annihilation tournament. Dennis Fong became the first eSports player in history to receive an award for his achievements. From this point on, the advance of eSports could hardly be stopped. Today, thousands of gamers compete against each other in international tournaments for big wins.

In Germany, the FIFA series is the most successful game in eSports. German teams have won first place several times in World Cyber Games international. However, the victories are not surprising because long-established German clubs have discovered eSports for themselves and are continuously investing in this new sports industry, which will increase its popularity over time and attract numerous new viewers, as multiple forecasts from experts predict.

Football in the Virtual Bundesliga

Although eSports is not officially recognized as a separate sports discipline in Germany, there are now numerous football clubs that have an eSports team. FC Schalke 04 and VFL Wolfsburg are pioneers in this respect. The German Football League (DFL) itself, as the umbrella organization of the first and second Bundesliga, has had eSports on its agenda for over ten years.

The first concrete step was taken in 2012 with the start of the Virtual Bundesliga in cooperation with the FIFA manufacturer Electronic Arts. Since then, the search for the German champion in online FIFA has stretched across four components: VBL Open, VBL Playoffs, VBL Grand Final, and, for the first time in the 2019/2020 season, the VBL Club Championship. A total of 22 football teams compete with their squad.

This is how the Virtual Bundesliga works.

The VBL Open is the free online mode that allows FIFA 20 players to qualify for the VBL Playoffs. The VBL Open will be activated for all participants on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One at the start of the tournament. After that, each player can choose their favorite team from the Bundesliga as they wish. You have to achieve the best possible balance within a month to get into the next round.

In the 2019/2020 season, another option for qualifying for the VBL Playoffs: is the VBL Club Championship. The participants are football clubs from the 1st and 2nd Bundesliga that have invested in an eSports team. Each team consists of at least two and a maximum of four players who fight for the title of German club champion in a closed league system. The most successful teams qualify directly for the VBL Grand Final, while teams of medium strength get their chance in the VBL Playoffs.

In the VBL Playoffs, the qualifiers from the VBL Open and the VBL Club Championship compete against each other. The winners of these games compete with the directly qualified teams of the VBL Club Championship in the VBL Grand Final, which finally determines the German champion of the Virtual Bundesliga as the crowning glory of the season. The surprising winner of this season is the player Yannic “Yannic0109” Bederke from FC Augsburg, who got the championship title as a semi-professional.

The hype surrounding eSports has long since gripped Germany. Prestigious clubs see sports and entertainment in the virtual world as a worthwhile sector for long-term investments. The DFL is also making its contribution. With the founding of the Virtual Bundesliga, a platform was created that offers both football and gaming fans exciting FIFA games to follow in a regulated qualification system, thus increasing the fan base of eSports.