There were slick passes, booming shots, big saves, and tough tackles. But this time, Seattle Sounders soccer stars took their competition from the pitch to the game room, duking it out against each other in a FIFA 19 Faceoff.
Microsoft hosted the tournament as a way to promote the Sounders new jersey kits advertising Mixer, the company’s game streaming platform that competes with Amazon’s Twitch. The action was live-streamed on Mixer’s page.
Eight players — Stefan Frei, Nico Lodeiro, Chad Marshall, Bryan Meredith, Lamar Neagle, Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan, and Victor Rodriguez — hung out at The Ninety in Seattle for an afternoon, playing 1-on-1 FIFA games in a single-elimination tournament.
Roldan took home the championship, ousting Meredith in the final game. The midfielder has a lot of practice under his belt — in fact, he used to bring his Xbox on the road and play FIFA with Morris in the hotel room.
“It’s a better road trip for sure,” Roldan said.
We caught up with all eight players to learn more about their video game habits. Definitely check out what Marshall had to say about his poor speed rating.
The Sounders wore their Mixer kits during Monday’s 4-1 win over Houston in Seattle. Microsoft uses its jersey sponsorship — which expires at the end of this season — to promote Xbox, and it recently began making special edition kits advertising first-party games like Halo including Forza, Halo, and Gears of War.
In August, it made jerseys touting Xbox Game Pass, the Netflix-like subscription service that charges gamers $9.99 per month in exchange for access to download more than 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 games.
Microsoft acquired Seattle startup Beam in 2016 before rebranding it to Mixer and launching an official competitor to Twitch. Mixer reached 20 million monthly active users in June, up from 10 million six months prior. Twitch has 140 million unique monthly viewers.
Ben Favreau, a product marketing manager for Mixer, said that Microsoft’s streaming platform differentiates itself by focusing on latency and products such as MixPlay, which lets viewers influence and change components of a game they are streaming. Another unique aspect of Mixer is HypeZone, the live game streaming version of NFL’s popular RedZone channel that shows the most exciting moments of various streams.
“We are really focused on pushing streaming beyond passive entertainment and into something that’s more active and engaging,” Favreau said.
Favreau added that events such as the FIFA 19 tournament show how the video game industry has grown beyond just the gaming community. “It’s becoming much more ingrained in pop culture as a whole,” he said.
Microsoft Xbox has been a Sounders jersey sponsor since the team first entered MLS in 2009. The original Sounders jerseys featured “Xbox 360,” but Microsoft has gone with the simple “Xbox” for the past several seasons.
The Sounders announced last year that it is working with sports management giant WME | IMG to explore a potential new naming rights sponsor for its jerseys, matchday pitch, and training facility.
Editor’s note: Comments from Favreau were added to this story.