Sneaky YouTubers are pretending their simulated football games are actually the World Cup.
Clever YouTube channels have found a way to tap into World Cup fever, streaming fake football matches that have been simulated in FIFA 23. Some of these videos have racked up tens or even hundreds of thousands of views, most likely tricking people who are searching for live pirate streams of the World Cup (Google Trends confirms spiking interest in the term "World Cup stream" over the last week).
According to Vietnamese news site VNExpress, a reader noted that one such video streamed near the start of the World Cup fooled them into thinking it was simply a low quality stream. "It wasn't until I read the comments on the livestream and watched the player's face close-up that I knew it was the image in the FIFA 23 game simulating the World Cup," they said (via machine translation).
A YouTube channel called Minute90Kplus, which VNExpress highlighted, has recently uploaded a number of videos and livestreams of World Cup matchups simulated in eFootball (formerly PES) and FIFA 23. One stream, posted on Tuesday, racked up 214,000 views. The most popular, from eight days ago, has accrued 277,000—though based on YouTube's chat replay feature, it seems like there may never be many active viewers on these streams. If I had to guess, they're just tuning in long enough to figure out they're not looking at the real thing.
But eFootball21 and FIFA 23 can be pretty convincing, at least from a camera angle high above the pitch. Drop the quality down to 240p or so, and I can see how people could be fooled.
I found several other Vietnamese World Cup channels, though they're not always trying to completely hide that the footage is fake. Still, using the #WorldCup2022 hashtag suggests they're hoping to grab a piece of that World Cup traffic. FIFA claimed 3.57 billion people watched the 2018 World Cup, so there's a whole lot of attention to go around.
The simulated match trick is hardly exclusive to Vietnamese YouTube channels: English channel Football Live, for example, has 1.25 million subscribers thanks to the same scheme, and countless YouTubers film themselves watching the World Cup with titles like "BRAZIL vs SOUTH KOREA LIVE Stream Watchalong" to catch a few eyeballs, too. Because some of these videos throw you into a couple ads immediately before you can watch, they're guaranteed to get a little bit of ad revenue even from viewers who bounce as soon as they realize they're not actually going to watch the match.