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Blog: The ultimate FIFA 13 multiplayer game - in a box, at the Etihad

So, turns out that bankrolling a football club to the tune of seven zillion petrodollars doesn't just buy you Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and, er, James Milner, as CVG found out last week when we travelled to the Etihad Stadium in (surprisingly sunny) Manchester on Champions League night.

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The oil-funded mega-wallets at Manchester City - alongside their "official gaming partner" EA Sports - have turned the traditional idea of corporate hospitality on its head with its really rather brilliant Platinum Gaming Box. It's a regular, eight-foot-by-eleven-foot 'entertainment space', but instead of tables, chairs and a bunch of trumped-up suits talking about quantitive easing and how many miles their Range Rovers do to the gallon, it's got four bum-pleasing leather gaming seats, a 42" TV, shelves full of EA games, and FIFA 13 on constantly.

Oh, and your own personal chef making posh cheeseburgers.

What makes it even better than all that, though - especially if you're from the blue half of Manchester - is that it's literally feet away from spankingly good seats in the middle tier at the Etihad. Think about it: you can play four-player FIFA 13 right up until kick off, step outside for the first half, return for a half-time rematch, take in the second half, then blam your way through even more games once the final whistle goes. Combo it with the day your team visits Mancunia and it'll be like Christmas come early! Unless you get hammered 5-0, obviously.

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Luckily, there was no danger of any one-sidedness when Borussia Dortmund came to town. In fact, the Germans utterly embarrassed Mancini's men for 90 minutes with brilliant one-touch football, backed by fans louder than the noise from a space shuttle launch. Equally luckily, Dortmund replaced striker Robert Lewandowski with a work experience kid who looked exactly like him, and the Mancs had Superman in goal, so the game somehow ended up 1-1. Highlight of the night, though, was when we bumped into heavy-of-pocket Man City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak (CVG review: very well dressed, extremely polite) who was showing his equally minted mates around the EA Sports box just before we got there.

Question is, then, how much will an afternoon (or evening) of footballicious luxury set you back? Well, we were told by the team at the stadium that prices start from £300pp plus VAT, although you can expect that to rise depending on the opposition - you definitely won't be paying 300 notes for a Manchester derby. (In fact, we couldn't get anyone at the club to tell us exactly how much a blue-vs-red grudge match came to, which suggests the cost could be pretty tasty when it turns up in your end-of-month credit card statement.) As well as wall-to-wall FIFA 13, Man City also throw in a dedicated waiter or waitress, stadium parking, room for you and up to 10 mates, and "exclusive EA content", which amounts to an "in-game retro kit reveal, Man City FIFA 13 edition and City players leaderboard." And - bonus! - the seats in the stadium are proper comfy too.

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Our take? It was a ton of fun, and we love the idea of playing FIFA 13 before, during and after an actual game of football. It's also something different from the slightly staid, prawn-sandwich-eating image of regular corporate hospitality. The only issue could be the price: does the common gamer (and friends) have upwards of three grand to drop for an afternoon's entertainment?


Despite that, as a matchday experience, it's pretty unique, and - for now - totally unrivalled.

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