For anyone interested in eSport versions of football (or soccer as it’s called by some) knows about the decade long fight between EA Sports and their FIFA franchise, and Konami and their eFootball or PES (Pro Evolution Soccer) franchise. A decade ago, before rebranding PES into eFootball, it was the best game in its category. However, with the advent of a new console generation left eFootball in the dust. So much so some call EA Sports FIFA the outright victors of the eSport football-wars. But the war isn’t over simply in virtue of one fact: the suits will do whatever they can to ruin virtual football.
First, let’s talk about Konami’s eFootball. That they managed to get Messi without also getting the rights to PSG, the team he plays for, is but a minor thing in the mess that was the launch. More problematic was their monetisation model, which had the game modes split up in different parts, and add to that the graphical issues.
What’s more interesting is a decision that was made many years ago, that should have let people know the idea of a European Super League would become a bad idea. Yes, I’m talking of the failed attempt to create an American-style football franchise with some big European clubs named the European Super League. Thankfully, the extreme fan reactions stopped the idea before it began.
The reason I mention it is that the idea already exists in the virtual space, where clubs like Barcelona, Bayern München, Juventus, Manchester and Arsenal signed up with Konami to create an eSport that would rival Dota and League of Legends. Yes, they really thought that’s where things were heading. So with the money of these big football clubs, and the money of Konami, and even some money from some major betting companies in Europe, how could they possibly fail?
You need the football fans
Here’s a guess: Maybe because you need fans?
European Sports are not American, the mindset simply is different. Also, the football mindset differs from the eSport mindset. Take the Virtual Bundesliga (VBL) for example. In that league all the real Bundesliga football teams (sans Bayern München who signed with Konami as above) have their own eSports players. They are paid by the club and play a league with play-offs and everything. Although they get good salaries for their work, these are not counted as earnings. This makes it hard to judge the quality of its players, as most eSports are measured in tournament winnings for major events. What it amounts to is an uncertainty about the overall quality of players, and that is alright. The fan base is still in its infancy.
Yes, the fan base. EA Sports FIFA sell really well each year, and not only that, they have struck gold with their new micro-transaction strategy. You buy loot boxes with players past and current, upgrade them, and then use them on the pitch. It’s clever, but it’s still gambling-like loot boxes EA purposefully drive players towards. You suck them dry, but it’s not really a way to create a fan base for an eSport.
This is another reason why the Virtual Bundesliga is so interesting. In it the Bundesliga clubs have to use their actual players both on the real pitch as well as on the virtual one. It’s a wonderful concept, successful too, for over a decade.
Still, compared to the disaster that is Konami’s eFootball, the EA Sports FIFA-franchise have this in the bag, don’t they? Not so fast! Due to the suits at EA Sports headquarters feel like they don’t need FIFA anymore. In fact, they believe having real football clubs, and real players in their game is a hindrance, not an opportunity. So yeah, let’s not get our hopes up for that.
Here at MIB all we can say is that we genuinely feel for the fans of the eSports that is football, whether Konami or EA Sports. It seems as if the suits will continue to do whatever they can to ruin virtual football.