It was during the year of 1993 that a newly founded video game company released a one of a kind, revolutionary football simulation game. They received massive, if somewhat unexpected, praise for it. EA Sports’ FIFA series has since become a staple in the world of video games. But what impresses the most isn’t the fact it dominates sales charts every year, it’s how this video game has evolved so much that it has managed to make an enormous impact on the one thing it tries to recreate. The world of football.
Overview of the game
EA Sports created FIFA in hopes of creating the most realistic football simulation game ever made.
FIFA International Soccer, the first game in the series, had only four simple and very similar modes. It only contained international teams, 48 of them, and the players all had fictional names. In comparison, FIFA 18 has over 700 teams from over 30 leagues available to play with. The game includes 8 very distinct modes, both on and offline. And every single player and team is 100% authentic.
The main FIFA franchise consists of 25 games, with EA having released one game every year since 1993. EA Sports have developed many other games though, including the FIFA Street series and the official World Cup titles.
EA Sports obviously named their creation after the Fédération Internationale de Football Association. In other words…FIFA. But for a lot of people around the world, this four-letter acronym stands for nothing more than the highly addictive video game.
FIFA is different to other games. The stereotypical “gamer” who spends his day in a confined room shouting at other people online while feeding on cheap snacks does not apply to FIFA players. Most of the people who play the game rarely play anything else. The main difference though is that their FIFA addiction isn’t caused by a love for video games, but by their passion for the king of sports.
That is why these fans encounter people who tend to say things like: “How is it that you only play FIFA all year long?” or “Why would you waste money on FIFA 18 when you already have FIFA 17. They’re both exactly the same!” Do EA Sports actually deliver the same game every year? Yes and no.
Let me explain. As a whole, FIFA is essentially the same game every year and has been since 1993. But, once again, this a game for football fans, and for these fans, every edition is massively different. Just the fact that the teams and players are updated to fit the current state of the sport is enough to persuade many to buy the newest edition. FIFA is all about being up to date with the real world of football. I can imagine the frustration of having to take control of Neymar in a Barcelona kit whilst, in reality, he’s scoring hattricks in France. I myself hate to use my favourite team in an outdated game whilst I see them play with completely different players every week.
This is just the tip of the iceberg though, as every year, however small they are, there are always new additions and improvements to the gameplay and to the game’s various modes. And speaking of modes…
Ultimate Team and The Journey
FIFA Ultimate Team, or FUT for short, revolutionised the series in 2009. EA decided to bring in a variant of footballing culture that everyone loved, and had been loved for decades. Trading cards. The concept of Ultimate Team was simple. Every player received a number of trading card-like items to begin with, (mostly very common, low rated players). Each player must then play matches with their squad to win coins in order to buy other player items on the transfer market or to purchase packs, where there is a chance of packing an amazing rare player. Fans fell in love with this and so it is currently the most popular mode in the game.
Some fans who have already proudly shown off their FUT squads in this year’s edition include none other than Antoine Griezmann and Thomas Muller. Obviously, both of them have insanely good teams. The best thing about this is the fact that people from all over the world have played against world-class footballers, probably without even knowing it. Even now, there is probably someone, somewhere, who is totally oblivious to the fact that he or she is getting completely slaughtered by Gareth Bale.
The Journey is the name given to a very different mode, one that involves an actual story. It made its debut last year with FIFA 18 now including “Part 2” of the story. It revolves around the fictional footballer, Alex Hunter, an 18-year-old English football fanatic with a promising future in the sport. The mode itself has two main aspects to it that makes up the story. The matches, where we control Hunter, and the cutscenes, where we get to see movie-like scenes regarding his life. It’s essentially an interactive movie.
How does this have any relation to real life football? Well, it’s the fact that this mode showcases a very genuine reality of what it feels like to make your way up into football stardom. Marcus Rashford, the real promising English talent, said he got chills when he played through The Journey, as it felt exactly like what he had experienced in his first year at Manchester United. Also, EA arranged a set of cameos to provide voices and motion capture for the story. This includes a long list of football stars, like, Marco Reus, Eden Hazard, Cristiano Ronaldo, Griezmann, Muller, James Rodriguez, Thierry Henry, Di Maria, Harry Kane, Rio Ferdinand and even the NBA star James Harden. In The Journey, these characters interact with Alex just like they might interact in real life.
Both Ultimate Team and The Journey influence and are influenced by the outside world. It is why both are so exciting to play, especially for hardcore, passionate football fans.
Footballers and FIFA
“After the wheel, the PlayStation is the greatest invention of all time.” This is a quote from Italian legend Andrea Pirlo, a huge fan of EA Sports’ work. This same player said something even more interesting which shows just how close FIFA is to real life. He said: “On 9 July 2006, I spent the afternoon sleeping and playing PlayStation in Berlin. Then, in the evening I went out and won the World Cup.” This was 12 FIFA’s ago. It wasn’t anywhere close to how big it is today. Today, it’s rare to find a football player who has never touched FIFA.
And it makes sense why footballers love playing this game so much. It gives them a way to simulate what they do best, but under no pressure and in any way they like. There are some who enjoy playing with their own avatars in-game. Others like to prepare for their next match by trying to beat their opponent virtually. Some enjoy the prospect of playing online against other people in a completely anonymous way. Lionel Messi confirms this, as he once said: “I love playing PlayStation online with people who don’t know who I am”.
EA have it easy when it comes to celebrity endorsements because most of these happen without the company having to lift a finger. There are constantly videos and pictures circling on social media of professionals glued to their TV screens, hunched over a game controller with a determined look on their faces.
Arguably the funniest interactions between football players and EA Sports happen during the release dates. When the game comes out, so do all the player ratings. Every single year, footballers fill social media with complaints, requests and outrages regarding their stats on FIFA. For example, Dele Alli has told EA Sports that he refuses to play the newly released game until he gets an upgrade to his player item.
Recently, Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi and EA took part in a hilarious Twitter feud. It started when the Belgian, disappointed with his FIFA 18 rating, took a picture of his Ultimate Team card and captioned it: “Please explain EA Sports”. The gaming giants responded quickly with: “Keep scoring goals and we’ll talk”. The player then pressured them once again after scoring the winning goal against Atletico Madrid, but EA teased him back. They wrote: “We know what you’re doing when you load up FIFA 18 for the first time Michy” followed by a video of them going into the editing mode in the game to upgrade all his stats to 99. This is one example of many.
Keep scoring goals and we'll talk…
— EA SPORTS FIFA (@EASPORTSFIFA) September 13, 2017
There have also been a few bad experiences between football pros and the video game developers though.
Rio Ferdinand became one of these when, a few years ago, he made a complaint to the developers. Ferdinand stated that the morale in the Man United dressing room had been affected by the game because many of the team’s star players had been downgraded in FIFA. And so he demanded they’d be given better ratings. Whilst Batshuayi’s comments were more playful than anything, the English defender was in no mood to joke around and meant what he said very seriously. But all’s well that ends well as Rio and EA have since made peace over their differences.
Another funny story involves a League One team. In the 2013/14 season, Leyton Orients had an incredible start to the season, amassing eight consecutive wins. Then FIFA 14 came out and the team saw a sudden drop in form as the next two games ended in a draw. The manager saw that his players were spending a huge amount of time playing the game since it had come out, especially on matchdays, and deduced that it couldn’t be a coincidence. He, therefore, banned FIFA on all macthdays for the entire team. And sure enough, they immediately bounced back to another victory.
EA Sports FIFA has reached a stage where the amazing players that we see on the pitch feel a tremendous honour just to feature in the game in some way. Even the best of the best feel some sort of excitement when EA offer them a role in their upcoming game. Ronaldo himself said he felt extremely happy to be on the cover of FIFA 18. Football players love FIFA. It’s as simple as that.
FIFA making real changes
FIFA doesn’t only provide amusement for footballer players. It has actually managed to help a few with their real-world careers.
An example of this was clearly seen in 2008 regarding the Italian keeper, Marco Amelia. After saving a Ronaldinho penalty, the then Parma goalie confessed to having had help from EA Sports. Amelia had acted upon his knowledge of the virtual Ronaldinho in FIFA to predict where the shot would go. He said: “It was just like playing against him on PlayStation. He had the same run-up. It was very strange.”
Another case is of Arsenal midfielder Alex Iwobi. The youngster recently told the New York Times that during his initial matches for the club, every time he faced someone he’d never faced before, he would “look at his name and then try to remember how good he was on FIFA.”
Some football professionals only became famous because of EA. Adebayo Akinfenwa is an English football player who acts for the League Two side, Wycombe Wanderers. Right now, dedicated football fans know exactly who he is, but in a time pre-FIFA, he was just another nobody. The reason he is now famous is due to him having the title of strongest player in FIFA for several years. On the game’s 1-99 scale, Akinfenwa was gifted with a staggering rating of 98 strength. The player now owns his own clothing brand and is known all over the world as “The Beast”, all thanks to EA Sports.
A great example of how FIFA and football blend in with each other arrived this year when EA unveiled a new skill move in FIFA 18 called “El Tornado”. Basically, this skill move consists of rolling the ball backwards, then flicking it upwards and spinning 180 degrees.
As of right now, only four players in the entire game can perform it. But what’s so special about this skill move is what EA have promised. They announced that during this football season, players in FIFA will earn the ability to perform “El Tornado” as soon as they show they can do it in real life. It will be interesting to see world-class players attempting to do it mid-game just so they can earn it on FIFA.
EA Sports currently possess an expert group of data analysts, scouts and generally just people who can contribute to delivering the most accurate statistics and ratings for each and every player in the game. Because of this, it is possible that they have predicted a ton of future talents. One excellent example is none other than Eden Hazard. Eight years ago, this Belgian player from Lille caught EA’s attention. They awarded him a 77 rated card in FIFA 10 and stated that the player a potential of reaching 91 in the future. In the newest version of FIFA, Hazard is the best Premier League player in the game and has a rating of 90. Not bad EA.
34% of all Americans say they became “soccer” fans because of FIFA. Just one more astonishing fact surrounding the globally influential video game.
EA Sports must be congratulated because of what they succeeded in making. EA created, not just a game, but a whole new chapter in the history of football. The number of football fans who could not have been if FIFA hadn’t existed is staggering. This game built a giant bridge between fans and players which is truly incredible. There is absolutely no doubt that this video game will continue to attract more and more new fans to the sport over the years. In 1993 football influenced EA Sports FIFA. In 2018 FIFA is changing football.