Most of the major esports—competitive video gaming—competitions are what you might expect: fantasy beat-’em-up games, sports like basketball, first-person shooters.
But the newest is something very different. Last week, GIANTS Software announced the formation of an esports championship league for its signature game: Farming Simulator 19.
Farming Simulator 19 is the latest in a game series, mostly played on PC but with console versions available, dating back to 2008. (The number represents the year of release, not the number of releases in the series.) It’s in the mold of other simulation games, including The Sims and RollerCoaster Tycoon, which are typically slow-moving, asking players to build and maintain a world.
Farming Simulator does its best to replicate the experience of being a commodity crop farmer: purchasing land, tilling, sowing, harvesting, expanding, selling. Within the game are some missions which are a bit more time-sensitive and exciting than the main game, asking players to perform certain tasks (baling hay, for example) within a time limit. In 2014 the series introduced multiplayer for the first time, which allows several players to work the same field at the same time.
GIANTS Software noticed the potential for a competitive league at AgriTechnica, a German conference, in 2017, when three-person hay-baling battles drew large crowds. Last year, they held a few tournaments, but this year, the whole experience has elevated with the creation of the Farming Simulator League. Ten tournaments all across Europe will separate the wheat from the chaff, and a final tournament for the best teams comes with a big prize. The total prize pool for the season, amazingly enough, is €250,000—over $285,000.
The game, too, will change, with less competitive bale stacking and more three versus three competitions to see who can grow and sell the most. This is all, again, completely real.