It’s been a year characterized by unprecedented growth, new records and spectacular gaming for the FIFA Interactive World Cup and presenting partners EA SPORTS™ and Sony PlayStation. FIFA 12 set a new sales record in the gaming industry, becoming the most successful sports video game of all time and FIWC12 reached over one million participants shattering its previous record in the Guinness World Records Gamers Edition.

In keeping with the record-breaking spirit of 2012, FIFA and EA SPORTS celebrated the imminent launch of FIFA 13 and FIWC13 by inviting the four most recent FIWC champions to Vancouver, Canada – home of EA SPORTS. Alfonso Ramos (FIWC 2008 and 2012 champion), Bruce Grannec (2009), Nenad Stojkovic (2010) and Francisco Cruz (2011) flew into Vancouver for the landmark event.

Over two days at the EA Campus the players met with various FIFA 13 developers and programmers, enjoyed a few hours of exclusive FIFA13 gameplay (the new game will only be released to the public later this month), recorded some FIWC Tutorial videos for all you aspiring champions and took a private tour of the incredible EA campus. The state-of-the-art facility includes a theater, restaurants, cafes, a fitness centre, a full-size football pitch and a motion capture studio. The main highlight of the two-day visit, however, was the chance to compete in the first ever FIWC Champion of Champions Tournament.

It feels special to have had four champions play for a trophy before the beginning of the FIWC13 season.

FIWC12 champion Alfonso Ramos.

Tournament of champions
Even though the champions were playing FIFA 13 for the first time, the level of game play was astonishing. It’s no wonder that the four players in attendance represented the past five years' worth of FIWC titles. Ramos, Grannec, Nenad and Cruz delighted the crowd huddled eagerly around them. Game developers, EA staff, journalists and FIFA representatives watched in awe as the champions put the new game through its paces in the first ever FIWC Champion of Champions tournament.

"It feels special to have had four champions play for a trophy before the beginning of the FIWC13 season,” defending champion Alfonso Ramos told “The tournament was lots of fun. We had the chance to test the teams and formations before everyone else.”

Bruce Grannec enjoyed a small slice of revenge by defeating fellow FIWC12 finalist Alfonso Ramos in the Champion of Champions final. The Frenchman was undefeated in his four games at EA SPORTS. Prior to the mini-tournament, Grannec and Ramos played two friendly matches, both of which went to penalty shootouts – a scene reminiscent of the FIWC12 Final. "I don't have any regrets,” said Bruce reflecting on the penalty shoot out that cost him the FIWC12 title. “When it comes to penalties there's a lot of randomness in it, so I try not to focus on the outcome too much."

First touch, first impressions
"There are lots of fundamental changes across the entire game, so have a great time playing it and let me know later what you think," said EA SPORTS Executive Producer David Rutter as he introduced the new game to the players and walked them through some of the new features.

"I feel like it's almost a new game," Stojkovic told “The defending is a little more compact. You defend more as a team. The first touch is way more realistic than previous years. I think everyone's going to be very excited to play the new game."

The other three champions echoed Nenad’s sentiments and were unanimous in their excitement with the first touch ball control, which they noticed immediately in the new game. "As Nenad said, It's a different game,” Cruz, the youngest of the four champions, told “We will have to practice to get used to it. I'm really enjoying it already.”

"The first touch, I think comes from the developers watching so much football and wanting to bring that realism to the game,” said EA SPORTS senior director of global marketing Jamie McKinlay. “The idea that players don't always control the ball perfectly the first time. It makes you think a bit more strategically about how you play the game."

"It's already my favourite FIFA," said Bruce after having played the game for just a few hours. "The game is more balanced between attacking strength and defence, that's why I like it more." Defending champion Ramos was immediately impressed with the new attacking features. "I love the new attacking style, because the forwards are looking for free space all the time.” Ramos said. “The game is harder. Last year it was easier to defend I think.”

FIWC13 launches later this year. Until then, be sure to get your hands on a copy of EA SPORTS FIFA13 when it’s released this month and begin your training for the world’s largest video game tournament!