Back in the day, there used to be a battle between FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) as to which was the best soccer video game. Both had their own fans and each was lauded for different components and gameplay. But it is FIFA that has forged ahead in recent years.
FIFA has become so popular that it is now regarded as part of the eSports scene. There are huge international tournaments, as well as professional players. Online sportsbooks offer betting markets on the top games and each edition of the game is eagerly anticipated each year.
But how did FIFA become so popular?
Number One Game
EA Sports was used to going up with PES each year at one point, splitting the market when it came to soccer games. FIFA was launched in 1993—and for around 12 years, both titles were just about as big as each other. But in 2005, EA rewrote the game’s code and used a new engine to power it. Ever since, FIFA has blown all competition out of the water.
PES is still available these days, but only as a free-to-play title. After vying for the number one spot for years, it just couldn’t keep up with how FIFA was marketed and the partnerships it had fostered, thanks to it being the official game of the official governing body of the sport.
Reasons for FIFA’s Popularity
There are a number of reasons why FIFA became the default soccer game—as well as a popular eSport in its own right. Sports simulation games have always succeeded and failed in their realism—and FIFA has always got that part right. There are some questions about the AI used to power players on the team apart from the one you control—but generally, FIFA works as a realistic soccer game.
Another reason why FIFA is so popular is that it holds the rights to the majority of the top teams and players. There are some anomalies—and soccer fans have gotten used to playing as Piedmont rather than Juventus—but all the top stars are depicted in the game and move and behave just like real people.
The inclusion of icons, or former stars, is a great addition to the game and brings in another dimension to the teams available. The expanding number of game modes has only helped fans identify further with this title.
FIFA as an eSport
The other major factor behind FIFA’s popularity beyond the traditional soccer fan base is how it has grown as a bona fide eSport. There are top leagues, just like the real soccer leagues around the world, as well as a number of big tournaments. The pinnacle is probably the FIFA eWorld Cup, attracting millions of fans.
Actual professional soccer clubs now have esports teams representing them in major tournaments and the crossover with FIFA game-playing professional soccer players ensures that the fans are even more aware of the title. Add to that the official status afforded to the game thanks to FIFA running the real-life sport around the world, and it is no surprise why it has taken off as an eSport as well.
The Future of FIFA
After PES fell by the wayside, it seems unlikely that there will be another soccer title that rivals FIFA. Without some major shake up of the world’s favourite sport, there is not going to be any change in the dominance of FIFA. With yearly updates designed to keep players buying the latest version, the money should keep on rolling in.
The only question would be over whether FIFA as a game can continue to be as popular as an eSport. Titles come in and out of fashion, but with the new backing of a gambling element that bets on games like real-life soccer, its status as an eSport doesn’t look like changing either.