They have cemented themselves as the go-to British FIFA esports casting duo in the space of 16 months – and they’re still at university.
So how did they get to where they are, what do they think about the rise of FIFA esports, and what are the benefits of joining an agency? We interview Brandon Smith and Richard Buckley at the FIFA eWorld Cup finals at London’s O2 Arena.
FIFA as an esport
Brandon: For FIFA as an esport, you could say it’s suffered with live spectatorship in the past, but we’ve got a few thousand in this weekend which is amazing to create an atmosphere.
And hopefully some people have come in quite open to esports, you might get some football fans in here that play FIFA casually but haven’t really looked at competitive FIFA. It’s a head-turner.
Richard: We’ve had eight million people in China watching, outsourcing from a Sky broadcast. So it’s got so many eyes on it and people don’t realise.
Brandon: And it’s going on Sky Sports Premier League football channel, which has the biggest football ties on.
We’ve had eight official league partners this year, the Bundesliga, Australian A-League, the J-League, the Russian League, the French league, the eMLS, the list goes on. It’s great to see the people behind those leagues, hopefully we’ll see it soon with the Premier League.
Richard: FIFA esports is probably one of the fastest-growing esports. If you look at the growth over the last 24 months, the Interactive/eWorld Cup has gone from $20,000 to $250,000 in prize money, it’s gone from arenas to stadiums, over 200 players have made money from FIFA this year which is quite remarkable really.
EA Sports has taken esports under its wing and is pushing it seriously. I think next year it will improve on that further and we’ll have another successful year. There’s only one way from here, and that’s upwards.
How they got into casting
Brandon: I got approached to do a league on Twitch called the Celtic Esports League and that had three to ten viewers per week, obviously it was very new and needed to grow first.
It was a 14-week league and I did about seven weeks on my own, then drafted in a few friends. We were studying together at university – we still are now in Manchester – and I know Richard has a very strong broadcasting background in radio and was a big FIFA fan himself. So I asked him: ‘Do you fancy coming on?’
And it just clicked. Bearing in mind we didn’t really know each other that well at university and lived four hours away from each other. We see esports commentators out there that are maybe just colleagues – we’re friends at the end of the day. Outside of this we’ll go and maybe have a beer or chill out, have a game of FIFA and a laugh.
We basically just put ourselves out there. There are those out there who might think: ‘What are these guys doing? They’re commentating over FIFA.’
We’re commentating at the O2 Arena today, so I think it was worth taking the risk.
Richard: I think the main thing was just getting experience, whatever it may be, for little to no money. Last year we went to Sweden, Amsterdam, Munich, Qatar, Los Angeles, anywhere that there’s a FIFA tournament and we get approached, we’re going!
Brandon: Some events we didn’t have a hotel. We thought we’d just go there for a day, we’ll rock it out, we’ll just stay up and get the flight back the next day. Back then, [when you’re starting out] you can’t be
I say this to anyone who wants to get into esports, just put yourself out there and take any experience you can get.
If you love esports and want to get a career, get involved, give it a go. It’s a really special and unique place.
Richard: A phrase I’ve almost adopted is ‘embrace the grind’. Get in there, stick it out, and if that’s what you want to do, it’ll happen for you.
We’ve done 10 hour days flat-out casting.
In August we got the opportunity to join Digital Sports Management, which took us to the next level.