One cannot deny the facts reflecting the growing popularity of eSport in the German football community: more than 150,000 people took part in the TAG Heuer Virtual Bundesliga (VBL) last season. On the day of the final, the highest cumulative YouTube live viewing time in VBL history was recorded: 3,782,292 minutes – the equivalent of more than seven years. Furthermore, DFL media partner SPORT1’s live coverage on the weekend of the final was watched by 1.1 million viewers in total.
At the time of its foundation in 2012, the VBL was the first eSport competition held by a professional football league – and the first professional league competition directly integrated into the EA SPORTS FIFA game. The positive development of eSport in recent years has prompted exchange between club representatives and the DFL, reaffirming the strategic relevance of eSport and encouraging joint initiatives under the DFL umbrella. The DFL Board has clearly defined and decided that the DFL’s eSport initiatives will be limited to football simulations.
With the establishment of the German eFootball club championship, the DFL plans to further expand its pioneering role in eSport. In addition to the already established German championship for single players, TAG Heuer Virtual Bundesliga, the clubs of the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 now have the opportunity to play out a German club championship in eFootball. For this, the DFL will launch the VBL Club Championship.
The new competition begins on 15 January 2019, with all participating clubs playing every other club once. The match days will generally be played in online mode, one top match being shown on TV each week with the players appearing live in the studio. Each match consists of three single games. Two will be played in one-on-one mode: one on the PlayStation 4 and one on the Xbox One. The third game will be played in two-on-two mode on the console of the home club’s choice. The game mode of the VBL Club Championship will be levelled-off, meaning that all of the players and teams will have the same aggregated player rating of 85. Consequently, the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 clubs can be represented by their own virtual team without any competitive advantage or disadvantage. The German club champion in the VBL Club Championship will be determined in mid-March 2019.
Teams participating in the VBL Club Championship can qualify for the later rounds of the VBL according to their position in the final table. Individual professional gamer from the best-placed teams will directly go to the VBL Grand Final, in which they have the opportunity to become the VBL Champion. Players of other teams can also reach the VBL Grand Final by qualifying for the VBL Playoffs, in which they compete against gamers who have made it through the VBL Open. This open competition, which will be integrated into the online mode of EA SPORTS FIFA 19 as in previous seasons, can be entered by FIFA 19 gamers based in Germany from December 2018 to February 2019.
The expansion of the TAG Heuer Virtual Bundesliga is accompanied by a revised branding: the new logo of the VBL is based on the familiar Bundesliga signet, supplemented by the prominent V-shaped cursor denoting the selected player in the game. This design also symbolises the “V” in “Virtual Bundesliga”.