For the past two seasons Jamie O'Doherty aka FUTWIZ Jamie, has represented Adelaide United and AUFC Esports in the E-League competing against the nation's best EA Sports FIFA competitors.
When he isn't wearing the red jersey of Adelaide United, he is representing his parent squad FUTWIZ in global competitions online and in far flung places such as Singapore, London and more.
AUFC Esports (@AUFCEsports on Twitter) caught up with Dan Bellis aka FUTWIZ Dan, one of the brains behind FUTWIZ to find out more about his esports organisation and competitive FIFA.
AUFC Esports: What is FUTWIZ?
Dan Bellis: FUTWIZ is a FIFA Ultimate Team community website (formed in 2012), and more recently since January 2017 – a professional esports team. The community website is a complete database of all the players within the current version of FIFA Ultimate Team past and present, it also has a dedicated FIFA esports section with leaderboards, pro player profiles and past event history.
AE: How did you come to establish FUTWIZ?
DB: It really came from just really messing about with the game – my colleague, Ruan was creating custom FUT items with different stats etc, which he made into a squad builder, which became a database website and it just went from there. It just grew very organically and took off quickly!
AE: What is your role?
DB: It’s quite varied! Day to day I manage a lot of the content that goes up on the site, it mostly revolves around what EA introduce into FIFA Ultimate Team that day (whether it be new player items or Squad Building Challenges). I manage and look after our social media and of course run, manage and coach our esports team!
AE: What were the steps in establishing FUTWIZ, gaining partners and even being taken seriously that FW and esports were something worth investing in when esports was not the billion dollar industry it is now?
DB: I’ve personally been involved in the FIFA esports community for quite a long time – I started off as a competitive FIFA player in around 2009, so it’s always been something I’ve had an emotional attachment to. When EA decided to get behind competitive FIFA Ultimate Team with FUT Champions and the Global Series, we decided that we had a brand that we could use to fund and build a team ourselves – and like the website, it pretty much grew quickly from that!
AE: What is the structure of the esports team?
DB: We’ve got a pretty simple structure – I’m very hands on and involved, I’d think that’s part of what makes us a very close and successful team with a great atmosphere.
I manage and run the team day to day and also coach at the events, we have four pro players – two in the United Kingdom (Zelonius, Tom) and two in Australia (Jamie, Marko) and one academy player in Australia (Dillon Gomes).
We operate out of our HQ which is based about an hour north of London, England - which we use to practice for events when our players are together in Europe – for example Jamie, Marko and Tom have been together at the HQ as they prepare for some of the recent events in the UK!
Despite having a squad that has players from opposite sides of the world, we’ve got a fantastic team atmosphere and everyone is very close – we’ve got a very active team chat and often when one of the guys are streaming a few of the others are watching and supporting in the chat!
AE: How did you find and sign players?
DB: Some of our scouting was done via the online leaderboards and event history on our site, but other times it comes from when players approach us with an interest to join – it’s a bit of a mix! We’ve got a team database which shows which players are signed to which teams, and who are currently free agents – so we’re constantly keeping tabs on the goings on and movements within the scene.
AE: When did you recognise expansion to other areas around the world and how did you approach it?
DB: I watched the first FIFA 17 Rest of the World regional tournament which took place in Sydney and was so impressed with not only the standard, but the community as a whole. It was then that we made the decision that we really wanted to get involved in the ANZ region because of the potential we saw – something that’s really been realised in the last couple of years!
AE: Do you play other games?
DB: FIFA and football games have always been my main to go, I do play other games from time to time – at the moment my “other” game is Apex Legends. In the past I’ve played all sorts – Dota, F1, Counter-Strike and a host of RPGs.
AE: Will FUTWIZ ever expand outside of FIFA?
DB: Difficult one to say really, the name FUTWIZ is so tied to FUT it would be difficult to make it stick for another game! Never say never though.
AE: From where you started, how different and how exciting is it to see competitive FIFA at the level it is now?
DB: If we’re talking from where I started when I played in 2009 – wow, unbelievable differences! The main one being the production and professionalism of the events, it’s also fantastic to see esports teams and football clubs coming together to compete on the same stage.
AE: What are your thoughts on the E-League?
DB: I think it’s brilliant for the growth of FIFA esports in the ANZ region, it gives more players a chance to compete and test their skills against the best in the country on a regular basis, and it’s no surprise that we’ve seen more players from the region show that they’re able to compete at the top level in global events. The production has been fantastic and has also showcased the personality of the players – it’s a community with a lot of great characters!
AE: How did you come to sign Jamie?
DB: (Laughs) Jamie was actually drawn in the same group as one of our Team FUTWIZ players at the time (OhNoAGoat – now with N8/WSW) at the FIFA 17 regional in Vancouver! He introduced himself to me in the warmup area and joked that if he beat Goat would that mean he could be in the running for a contract.
He ended up beating Goat (The Vieira near post goal he scored is basically a meme now) and went on to secure a top 6 finish – regardless of what was said in the warmup room prior to the tournament we saw a lot of potential in him and were already aware of him having watched the Sydney regional previously, we had a chat once he’d returned home to see if there was an opportunity to work together and thankfully it all worked out.
AE: What value do you see in your FUTWIZ competitors signing for professional football clubs?
DB: With regards to the collaboration we have with Adelaide United, I think it’s a great opportunity for everyone – I’d like to think we can really help on the esports side, introducing and promote Adelaide United to our community, it gives Jamie an opportunity to play for his hometown club whilst we share his progress and it’s great to have our brand associated with a successful and established club!
AE: What do you look for in your competitors?
DB: think the thing that separates the top players from the rest is mentality – things don’t always go your way in FIFA and it’s about how you bounce back to either get back into the game or win the next one. Consistency is something that’s very important – it’s no fluke that the same players are generally seen at the tournaments throughout the year despite a very difficult qualifying process.
AE: What would you say to the critics out there who don’t understand competitive esports/FIFA?
DB: I’d ask them just to try and watch one of the well produced events – like the E-League and go into it with an open mind. A lot of people I know who’ve been doubters have watched some of the big events and really enjoyed it!
AE: How do you describe that it is not only a thing, but a valid industry/competitive environment?
DB: I think you just have to look at the teams, clubs and brands involved these days to see what a legitimate industry it is, it’s grown an incredible amount in the last few years and the numbers behind esports engagement and views really do speak for themselves.
AE: Esports revenue globally seems to go up every year, do you think the bubble will burst or is there still a lot of room to grow?
DB: I think there’s plenty of room to grow, especially within FIFA – when you consider that FIFA is the best selling sports franchise of all time and the accessibility of it all due to football, I think there’s so much more to come in the future, we’re very excited to see how it all plays out.
AE: How do you view the Australian Esports scene?
DB: I think there’s so much potential – it’s really in the last couple of years that the FIFA community has woken up to the fact that there are players from Australia who can compete at the very highest level and more and more players are stepping up to that level as time progresses. With the upcoming FIFA eNations tournament people genuinely see Australia as a team to be reckoned with, we’ve seen more organisations get involved and with things like the E-League, and the great reception and viewing figures it has been getting, it really feels like the start of something big!