Video games sales tend to spike come the holiday season, and one game seeing growing interest is Electronic Arts (EA) Sports' "FIFA 15," with the video game company reporting the United States is not only emerging as the No. 2 best-selling territory but also bringing in new fans to the sport of soccer.

"Video games helping to advance the popularity of a sport in America is not a new phenomenon. The Madden games help promote NFL football and the NBA2K series does the same for the NBA. Even UFC video games are being released to help advance the fighting league," founder and Editor-in Chief of DreamStart Soccer Joseph Hirschhorn Howard told Latin Post. "FIFA plays the same role for soccer in America, and it's just another way to promote soccer in the U.S."

The rise in popularity of the video game has given interest in the sport of soccer a big boost with a study conducted by Rich Luker, titled "Luker on Trends - ESPN Sports Poll". That study showed that 34 percent of EA Sports FIFA gamers end up becoming soccer fans after playing the video game while 50 percent of EA Sports FIFA gamers become more interested in the sport after playing the video game.

"With 34 percent of FIFA gamers becoming pro soccer fans after playing the video game and 50 percent becoming more interested soccer after playing, it's no doubt that America is becoming a more soccer-centric nation," Howard said. "The American engagement with the FIFA video game will only bolster the new wave of fandom brought about in the U.S. by the fact that it's a World Cup year in which fans were given more access to watch matches than ever before."

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The equation to soccer fandom via video games is pretty simple. Gamers who start off playing the video game as newbies slowly start learning not only who the big stars of the sport are but also begin to attain an understanding of the rules and nuances of the sport, eventually transferring that video game knowledge into their viewing consumption of the sport as they check out the players and teams used in real-life games.

"You have your favorite team (from the game), and you start to have your favorite players in the game, and then it helps really build that connection," said Nick Channon, a senior producer for the EA Sport FIFA video game line, to

The correlation between interest in the sport and the rise in popularity of the soccer video game was first seen after the 2010 South Africa World Cup, when EA Sports saw sales increase for their video game. EA Sports saw sales jump from 6.4 million copies being sold in 2010 to 12.45 million in 2013, according to Credit Suisse predicts that by March 2015, EA Sport FIFA 15 will have moved 11.3 million units, a bountiful haul for the video game company, bringing in $3.6 billion in sales, considering the game was released in September of this year.

"The first time [we saw this connection] was in 2011," Rich Luker told Latin Post. "It was something of a surprise because, up until then, we had seen no relationship between video games and sports."

Luker has his hypothesis as to why the sport continues to flourish in North America since the 1994 U.S. World Cup, attributing the growth of soccer in this country to four factors:

  • A generation of parents who played soccer when they were kids, so it has become a part of their culture they passed on to their children.
  • U.S. television networks broadcasting more games from around the world than in the past, such as Fox Sports coverage of UEFA Champions League and NBC Sports televising English Premier League (EPL) games, so people are more exposed to the sport.
  • The Internet has enabled soccer fans in America to engage with the rest of the world.
  • Video games have raised the interest of non-fans and casual fans enough for them to give the sport a chance.

"Twenty years ago they were games, not sports," Luker said. "With each year, they have become more realistic and more steeped in the realities of the sport. I think that is a major reason why in 2011 we saw the breakthrough of impact. Before 2000, the sport aspects were not so tightly knit with the actual playing of the game. So, even in the NFL, now we are seeing game play significantly increase interest in the underlying sport."

Major League Soccer (MLS) has seen how EA Sports has helped expand interest in the sport and partnered with the video game company to help continue with the evolution of the league, including sponsoring EA Sports FIFA 15 launch party held in New York City that also included showcasing their "MLS Next" talent as well as debuting the North American soccer league's new logo.

Luker's research has shown that there has been an increase 112 percent of gamers using MLS franchises in the game between the launches of FIFA 14 and FIFA 15. EA Sports' research shows that 1.9 million gamers have played with the Seattle Sounders, 1.3 million gamers played with the LA Galaxy, 1.1 million people have played the New York Red Bulls, 867,000 played with the Chicago Fire and 604,000 with played with D.C. United to round out the top five MLS teams used online.

"We have a really good partnership with MLS," EA Sports FIFA producer Sebastian Enrique told "MLS is always looking forward to doing things with us, and we're always looking forward to doing things with them."

(Photo : EA Sports) Luker on Trends - ESPN Sports Poll Results