Okay so, I might have oversold this straight of the bat, as I can state right here and now that I don’t have a conclusive answer to this question. What I will do, is offer my personal opinion on the matter, as it is something I have pondered upon many a time.
To be fair this post could easily become a frustrated rant on how the FIFA franchise keeps spitting out similar annual games without a huge amount of improvement. I doesn’t take many minutes of internet searching to find a horde of frustrated people on the internet letting loose accusations such as the one just mentioned. Other accusations fall on subjects such as dropped internet features on previous versions and a lacking amount of innovation within the franchise. One could definitely argue in support of these points of critique, but also against them, which is what I will be doing, as I see good reason as to why FIFA works the way it does – not to mention most other annual sports game releases.
Now, let us start with the fact that the game is released annually, and the reason for this is simple; it is released just after the football transfer window closes, which means club squads will be updated upon release and video game players can embark on a new season of football with all their favourite teams updated to match the real life ones. So why does FIFA simply not just update the squads in all of their games, you might ask. That would of course offer more replay value. The answer as I see it is twofold. One, we have to remember that video games are products, and there is more money to be made from a new game released annually than there is in keeping previous games up to date. Two, I honestly think even if EA were to update FIFA maybe one or two years back from their latest version, most of the people who buy the new version every year would still do so.
That last point ties in nicely with another of those critique points, namely that the versions differ too little from one year to the next. To some degree this may be correct, but it depends a lot on the eye of the beholder. You see, if you play FIFA a lot you become aware of all the little intricacies of the game – there is a certain feel to it, which is especially felt in the weight of the ball and player movements. This feel changes for each year, and usually in the way of becoming more true to player movement in real life. And that is another important point – FIFA as with many other sports games is all about being as realistic as possible. So even though the graphics updates are at times very slight, the way the game plays tends to change quite a bit. One year it might best to swing in lots of crosses because the crossing-heading mechanism works slightly to the attackers advantage, another year it may be long shots that are favourable. By playing the game a lot these “weaknesses” in the game are exposed and of course exploited. I personally tend to find that this makes the game slightly repetitive in the long run, which then partly explains why I welcome next years edition, because hey, it may still be the same game about football, but it will feel different.
And yes, I really wish I had a better way of describing it in another way than this vague feel term. But alas that is as close as I will get right now.
To sum up, my impression is that FIFA divides people into those who play it a lot and therefore also feel as though they get their monies worth for every new rendition of the game, and then those maybe do not play it as much, or at least have a much more casual relationship to the game and are therefore probably fine with only buying every second or third game.
I, by the way, am probably mostly in that second category of people. I do enjoy the game a lot, and play it a fair bit upon buying it, but I do not use the online features enough to justify purchasing it every year. Even though this is the case I actually think the developers EA do a fine job in updating the game every year. There is only so much they can do game-mode wise as, in the end, it is a football game.
Of course one can always argue that EA could do more, make the yearly updates have even more impact, but to be honest, as I don’t know how much work it takes them to make the changes we see, I do not find myself to properly knowledgeable to discuss that point.
But who knows, maybe the dark horse of football games, namely Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer (PES), will start shaking things up and force EA to push their games even further. The PES games have improved dramatically over the past few years. So it isn’t as though things aren’t progressing in the world of football video games, and to be honest, I don’t think there is that much to be unhappy about.
Thanks for reading.