Shiaan '1201' Rugbeer

What some of SAs Top FIFA 18 gamers learnt in Holland

© VS Gaming

Shiaan '1201' Rugbeer and Julio 'Beast' Bianchi recently returned from the FIFA 18 Global Series Playoffs held in Amsterdam

Sixteen year old Thabo 'Yvng Savage' Moloi from Johannesburg and nineteen year old Shiaan '1201' Rugbeer from Pretoria gained hall of fame status when they beat thousands of hardcore gamers to win R400k at the VS Gaming, FIFA eSports competition held last month at Monte Casino, Jo'burg. The wins allowed the gamers to be the only African team at the FIFA 18 Global Series Playoffs held in Amsterdam a few weeks ago, where the top players qualified for the FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Finals going down at London in August.
128 players from around the world, 64 each representing PS4 and Xbox One respectively, congregated in Amsterdam for the playoffs. After playing two legs the player with the highest aggregate score is declared winner. After battling for a week, the top 16 from each console progressed to the Grand Finals in August where the winners of each console will waltz away with a cool US$35 000 (approx. R481 000)
1201 who jams Xbox One, was scheduled to arrive in Amsterdam a few days after Yvng Savage competed for PlayStation 4, but at the last minute Thabo had to cancel his trip due to passport issues.
“I couldn’t go to Amsterdam because I didn’t even know the tournament was a world qualifier,” explains Yvng Savage.
“I only found out I'm going to Amsterdam after I won and I didn’t have a passport... I didn’t read the contract,” he admits embarrassingly. “I applied for a passport but by the time it arrived the play-offs were over.
Julio 'Beast' Bianchi, a Capetonian who plays for Goliath Gaming, also won a ticket because he won the last minute qualifier held that same weekend.
Julio Bianchi
Julio Bianchi
Though neither SA player qualified for London, each of them are still ranked amongst the worlds top 64 FIFA 18 players for each respective console, and the humbling experience opened their eyes to SA's place in the global eSports community. Here are some of the lessons they learnt in Holland.
How did you guys perform in Amsterdam?
Beast: I beat this German guy who is new on the scene, then I beat Hashtag Agge, who is two time world champion 9-4 overall, I lost to a Brazilian after my keeper made a huge error in the 90th minute while I was leading 1-0. We went to extra time and he beat me 3-1 or 4-2 on aggregate. I lost to Honey Badger 5-2 on aggregate, then I lost 6-4 to the Dutch guy who plays for PSV Eindhoven soccer club's e-division after both legs.
1201: In my first game I versed an American guy and beat him 9-6. Lost my second game 5-3 on aggregate to a Spaniard. Lost 6-4 to a guy called Heroshia, dont know where he is from, then finally lost to a professional gamer for Italian soccer club A.S Roma on penalties after we were tied on aggregate.
After that experience how would you rate international eSports competitions compared to SA?
Beast: I've said this a few times, we still have a long way to go... there is still room for improvement. For example the overseas guys have a big gaming competition every month or every fortnight which is why they're so good. In SA all we have is VS Gaming and one or two tournaments.
1201: SA gamers aren’t that behind international gamers. We meet minimum standards to compete globally but don’t surpass them simply because people from EU have much more opportunities than us. I think there were ten Germans who qualified for Amsterdam due to the fact that they have so much more competitions to compete in.
Do local esports gamers experience uniquely SA problems?
Beast: Data is our biggest problem, for instance I don’t have fibre so when I’m at home I play with LTE which is horrible because the connection is limiting my potential.
1201: Yes, data rates are our biggest hurdle. Like when I was in Amsterdam 50 gigs of data cost €5, around R70, if you compare that to our rates it is much cheaper!
How do sponsors advantage gamers?
Beast: Local gamers would benefit by getting access to faster more reliable internet connections. Big sponsors like Red Bull could get you marketing and branding all over social media but the most important thing is support...Two guys from my crew Goliath Gaming came to Amsterdam with me... having people believe in me brought out the best in me.
1201: Support! At VS Gaming everyone had their own supporters which made the event more enjoyable. Having people cheering for you effects the way you play, it gives you less nerves knowing there are people backing you at the event.
The prize money at the VS comp was unbelievable, was this the biggest prize money so far?
Beast: Actually last year it was R500 000 for first place, which was the biggest in Africa. This was my first year competing at VS, and seeing guys like Thabo Moloi showed me anything is possible at VS Gaming tournaments.
1201: Yes, the prize money was quite unbelievable... FIFA backed competitions like this one only came to SA last year. Even though last years prize money was half a million Rand, this years competition actually had more money because last years tournament was played on Xbox only, this year R400K was given out to first place Xbox and PlayStation winners.
Would you guys say SA market is now capable and ready of having full time professional gamers earning good money like a 'real' job?
Beast: Yes definitely, in Holland we spoke to a woman who told us pro gamers in Europe make €7 000 per month on average, which translates to well over R80 000 per month, just for playing video games! We do have the players, we do have the market and its something I would like to see happening soon.
1201: Like the European woman said, gamers make serious money in Europe. I believe we are capable and ready to have full time professional gamers like in EU, for that to happen in SA would be really amazing.
How would you motivate government to give the gaming industry a cash injection?
Beast: SA's gaming community made a name in Amsterdam and even before that we were raising eyebrows in Qatar last year when we competed for another tournament. We've competed at a couple of international competitions where corporations like Red Bull were creating social media awareness and sponsoring international players, but I don’t think the government even knew we were flying the SA flag overseas.
1201: Gaming is seen as an eSports now so this makes it an international sports, if the government wants to be seen as modern and relevant to the youth I think sponsoring video gamers would accomplish that.
Is there anyway South African's can improve their skills for next years finals?
1201: If we practised more against quality players we could have better results in international tournaments. Competitions like VS Gaming are only held once a year in SA whereas in EU and USA these things take place every month so they have way more practice than us.
Beast: I need to emphasise this, we need more competitive practice. The advanced players overseas practice against each other consistently. We not quite at that level because we don't get professional practice so we seem amateurish when we get overseas. As for the VS Gaming competition guys got tired because we waited too long in between games...We also need a second leg like we had in Amsterdam. Two matches instead of one definitely decide who the best player is so I would like to see that when I play at next years VS tournament.
With the year halfway through already, eSports gamers around the world are anticipating EA Sports' FIFA 18 upgrade. “When FIFA 19 comes out soon, everyone starts out on a new page,” says 20 year old Beast.
“No one is a big dog anymore because its a new game, the playing field is levelled again. If we could just get financial support, we could see African teams winning international eSports tournaments for the first time.”