We’ve seen esports battles. We’ve seen esports strategy. We’ve even seen esports versions of real sports.
Now, we have esports farming. No, not farm teams for teams in the esports space (although it’s an idea that is probably waiting to happen) but real-live farming. Only on a screen. And it’s cropping up everywhere.
Beginning this summer, the Farming Simulator League spans 10 tournaments across Europe, culminating with Giants’ own FarmCon in summer 2020. The prize purse: $284,000.
The concept that became Farming Simulator took root in the player community, as fans began harnessing the series’ multiplayer functionality to play competitive events. Stacking hay bales became the basis for the early Farming Simulator Championship events.
The first championship event debuted at AgriTechnica 2017, a farm-tech expo in Hanover, Germany. And while event organizers thought the concept might be interest younger players, nobody was prepared when the exhibit booth suddenly became packed wall-to-wall with viewers to watch the three-player bale-stacking battles.
“When the senior guys of AgriTechnica came by and saw how many people there were, I think that’s when they realized that they should do it again in two years on a bigger scale,” Giants Software marketing manager Martin Rabl told reporters at The Esports Observer. “Also, that’s when we realized that that’s something that we could potentially do on a bit more professional level.”
Fast-forward two years and you have the Farming Simulator League, with some high-profile teams, including one sponsored by agricultural equipment giant, John Deere. Other big sponsor names include Lindner, Horsch, Bednar, and Krone, as well as Corteva Agriscience, a private company that was previously part of Dow DuPont.
The Farming Simulator League season rolls out this month, encompassing 14 total tournaments, including 10 offline competitions at various European events. The championship will take place at FarmCon 2020.
“The reasons for John Deere’s entry into esports are obvious: first and foremost the attractiveness of the detailed Farming Simulator within the agricultural sector and far beyond,” said John Deere public relations manager Ralf Lenge, in a release. “This is accompanied by the high level of acceptance of John Deere products in Farming Simulator and the ever-stronger interlocking of the real with the digital world.”
John Deere machinery was featured in Farming Simulator 19, and TEO notes that the company plans to expand the number of its vehicles included in the next entry of the game.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the appeal of this particular pastime outside of the trade show floor, Farming Simulator 2019 sold one million copies in its first 10 days of release.
John Deere already did a rollout on the team, and has a special section of its website devoted to it.
The unexpected (to put it mildly) concept of competitions in simulated farming isn’t lost on writers in the esports space – but neither is the fact that it is a welcome change. As AYO News notes, it only proves ”that esports isn’t just about fights featuring impossibly curvy purple-haired beauties in skin-tight clothing, or badass special forces shooting terrorist insurgents.”