Skip to content

FIFA Goes Virtual: Game-Changer or an Own Goal?

A serious foot forward for FIFA, this represents the wider trend of sports organizations embracing new tech

Photo by Marcos Moraes / Unsplash

As more and more soccer stars enter Web3, it shouldn’t be too much of a shock to find that FIFA is taking strides into the metaverse. The world's governing body for soccer—or football for those across the pond—is taking steps to create a new digital marketplace for fans to purchase and collect virtual merchandise as NFTs, and allowing the football-frenzied to visit a virtual stadium in the metaverse, interacting with other fans and exploring the grounds.

Not the First Kick-Off

This certainly isn’t FIFA’s first foray into the future. In an attempt to stay ahead of the game, FIFA is always quick to embrace new technologies and offer new experiences to fans, just like it did in previous World Cups. In 2010, some of the games debuted on our screens in 3D. In 2018, FIFA offered its first virtual reality experience for fans. This time, they'll be providing yet another way to interact with the World Cup through a partnership with Upland, a “virtual property strategy game mapped to the real world”.

The most watched sporting event globally, The Qatari World Cup has made it significantly more controversial, with many fans boycotting the games and even refusing to visit. Lucky for those who decided not to attend, they can still hop into FIFA’s virtual world instead of catching a flight to the desert nation–especially useful for those unable to afford flights.

Fans will be able to visit the FIFA World Cup virtual village to purchase digital merchandise, such as flags, mascots and scarves. And by completing a collection of all the finalists' memorabilia, they could even win prizes, all while exploring as their digital avatars.

FIFA’s Non-Fungibles for Fans

The virtual marketplace, which will be available on the FIFA website, will feature a wide range of digital collectibles, including virtual jerseys, team badges, and player cards. Fans will be able to purchase these items using real money, and display them lay them in their virtual collections. Soccer fans can also purchase NFT packs featuring membership passes and memorabilia, like pictures of major World Cup plays.

A serious foot forward for FIFA, this represents the wider trend of sports organizations embracing the metaverse and digital collectibles. By providing fans with new and exciting ways to engage with the game, FIFA is creating a deeper and more meaningful connection with sports fans, and potentially creating new and sustainable business models by allowing fans to purchase digital assets as NFTs which could bring later benefits and utilities, even in some cases acting as a replacement for membership passes to events and games.

Whether or not fans have taken to the new technology well is another question–the 3D games in 2020 met mixed reception, and 3D TVs turned out to be something of a niche or passing fad. As of 2017, 3D TVs are no longer manufactured in the market, lasting less than a decade. Whatever the case, NFTs and virtual worlds seem here to stay.