Giant's Software, developers of the Farming Simulator series, entered the fray of esports this past weekend when the Farming Simulator League kicked off during Farmcon. The annual fan event took place Saturday and Sunday in Harsewinkel Germany and hosted thousands of fans who showed up to see the very first rounds of the Farming Simulator League.
Last year, Giant's Software hosted a series of individual events, called the Farming Simulator Championship, to test the waters of a full-fledged esports league. Now, with a prize pool of $280,000, the company is joining the competitive gaming market in a big way, and bringing on some major sponsors to help support their teams.
The European esports league will hold online events throughout the rest of the year as well as competitions at Gamescon, Paris Games Week, and Herofest just to name a few. Each event will see the 8 Farming Simulator teams competing in a single elimination bracket for prize pools of varying size. This weekends first winner, Team Trelleborg, took home over $13,000 in prize money.
Trelleborg isn't the only agricultural manufacturing company to sponsor a team. Other sponsors include CLAAS, Lindner, HORSCH, Bednar FMT, AMAZONE, and of course, John Deere. Team owners are responsible for putting together their team members, and while some, like AMAZONE, have teams comprised of AMAZONE employees, the European division of John Deere opted to recruit 7 German players to compete for Team John Deere in the league.
While JD will be handling logistics and travel arrangements, they won't actually be paying the players a salary. That may come later, according to Stefen Muegge, marketing manager at John Deere. The company first wants to make sure that the players can be trusted to represent the John Deere brand.
Believe it or not, John Deere equipment didn't actually show up in Farming Simulator until this year's version, Farming Simulator 19, and the company has promised more content is on the way. The popularity of Farming Simulator may come as a surprise to some, as the game is still being played by over 15,000 people a day even 8 months after release, and has a particularly large following in Europe. John Deere seems to have finally picked up on this:
“We see two opportunities for us. We need to be present in the game with our machines and solutions, and we need to promote the brand inside the farming community,” said Muegge. “Our main target is not the gaming community—our main target is the farming community, and we believe that many, many of our customers and drivers are also following Farming Simulator and they are active users of it. This is why we are active.”
The next Farming Simulator League event will take place online August 10th and 11th. You can follow Team John Deere on the company's official website here.