GIANTS Software is a company that is best known in the esports community for its niche and highly unique event, the Farming Simulator League (FSL). While the event may be a blip on the radar compared to mainstream competitive games, Farming Simulator is a game that has its appeal and has spawned a vibrant community around it.
The premise of Farming Simulator is simple. Become the best farmer, controlling different farm equipment. From bale stacking to harvesting grain, to transporting produce, it all comes down to patiently going through the vicissitudes of daily farming life while trying to outstrip the competition.
Farming Simulator could look a little niche, but it has an inescapable appeal and the fact you have so many people playing the game (some 12,611 on average according to Steam) makes it a promising title. Even more so, when you factor in the €100,000 tournaments that pit the best farmers from around the world against one another.
The FSL has been able to team up with several prominent partners, including Noblechairs and Intel, and even agricultural brands Corteva and DLG.
Q: How was the idea of the Farming Simulator League born? What motivated GIANTS Software to pursue it?
CE: It all started with the idea to engage with an event audience – what could we do with people coming up on stage, some kind of competition within a short time frame? We created a standalone Bale Stacking Competition to use at those agricultural fairs and gaming conventions and realized its popularity immediately. It’s been appreciated by long-time fans and newcomers alike. From there the idea expanded beyond just a simple bale stacking show into a competitive arena, from just an idea to a full esports league. Likewise, the game mode became more complex and changed into harvesting & delivering grain and bales to score points and beat the opposing team. The FSL (Farming Simulator League) was born!
Q: Did you know from the start whether the idea would work and whether the esports community would accept and recognize the format?
CE: We knew that esports in the farming world would be a surprise – so we could count on great impactful news. And we knew after internal tests that the mechanics would work and we had fun ourselves, so we were confident about the basics. We also prepared the ground to get this ready for esports and finally, we learned, that we’d been able to kick off a kind of new esports genre!
Q: You are already doing well in terms of player base comparative to StarCraft, Age of Empires IV, and Warcraft – three unrelated but competitive titles. Do you reckon Farming Simulator has room for further growth?
CE: Sure! We still see differences in various countries, and there is much more room for further growth. Looking back, when we started 2008, Farming Simulator had been a PC game only, and today we have a multi-platform strategy, even offering Crossplay for Farming Simulator 22. The platform expansions represented a major push, and the brand awareness reached new heights. At the same time, we realize great potential in those countries, who traditionally favor consoles, as the Farming Simulator is shorter than in PC-driven territories. The authentic machinery is another important factor for us: There are many exciting opportunities with various manufacturers and their local networks. We offer more than 400 vehicles and tools in Farming Simulator 22, and appreciate their global or local influence. For example, we’d been able to announce the in-game CLAAS TRION on the same day, when this new harvester had been officially revealed, or did you know, that you can even get a Porsche tractor via a cross-promotion? Last but not least, it’s also remarkable, that we prepared 4 different pack shots, each featuring a different tractor on the front, to push local brand favorites.
Q: Would your latest game in development, Farming Simulator 22, focus on introducing new esports elements, count on the established formula, or something different?
CE: We will do a Season 4, that’s for sure! Currently, we are reviewing the outcome of the finished Season (congrats to Trelleborg on that occasion) and will make amendments for the next league, of course. But for details, you need to be patient a little bit longer…
Q: What is the biggest challenge in promoting Farming Simulator as an esports or is it a natural byproduct of interest in the game?
CE: On a promotional level, we missed the real-life events. While it’s been doable to run a league through online tournaments, the presence at gaming or agriculture events is the opportunity to present the FSL presence to new players and fans. We missed events that could not happen due to the pandemic situation.
Q: Have you received a good response from agricultural companies, and do they see this game as a good medium to advertise? How would their products appeal to esports consumers do you think?
CE: I have to thank all the supportive agricultural companies, at foremost, Corteva Agriscience, who took the lead as the main sponsor for our FSL. But also looking at the team sponsorships, where John Deere, Krone, or Valtra to name a few, sent their teams competing in our FSL. Overall, I would even say manufacturers love to be part of our product! The FSL as an esport can be seen as a great way to get a younger audience interested in agriculture in a more casual manner. The bale stacking competition that the FSL was born out of quickly became a favorite activity of the younger audience at trade shows. Everyone knows the popularity of big machines and loves to master them.