EA’s E3 presentation was nothing short of lacklustre. The reason I’m even typing this little entry about it is not because they lacked almost any kind of gameplay, resorting to trailers and concept videos only, but because FIFA is going to have a story mode. The question is why would they want that?
There is logic behind it, but the logic should be questioned. FIFA has sold decently alongside other sports titles, but sports titles are automatically not for the hardcore. They don’t offer grand campaigns or anything like that, but FIFA with a story mode does. There’s not much you can do with football games once you reach certain peak, and EA has not been willing to revise the system drastically since… I don’t know, 1996? EA was caught in 2012 for selling the preceding year’s title again in a new package, just with an updated roster. While most other titles are not in the same vain in the series, this is nearly pandemic in their sports like, where we’ve a point where there is very little reason to purchase the new FIFA entry, outside updated roster.
This is partly because they’ve been doing sports games so long and have been aiming to simulate the sport rather than go for more arcade-y controls, and partly because video game development costs shitloads of money, especially when you have a license game in your hands that needs to look sleek. When you have pressure to develop a game that would sell at least as well as the last year’s title despite the nearly same gameplay and everything that pressure brings with it, it’s no wonder the developers may want to seek new ways to expand the existing consumer base.
Those who buy and play sports games are in majority within the general public. While some hardcore gamers do play them, the division is almost cut with a knife, where the split is like night and day. However, people who would rather enjoy a session of Final Fantasy than FIFA are now targeted with this story driven entry.
Hiroshi Yamauchi once said that people who play RPGs are, essentially speaking, basement dwellers. While Yamauchi was rather strong with his words, he is not exactly wrong either. RPGs take considerably amount of time and effort to beat through, and one can’t just sit down and play a game or two. Most people don’t have the time to invest in such a scale, and thus sports games that rely on arcade roots still flourished. You can play a ball game or two, then quit and be on your merry way. No reason to search for a save point or the like.
Even when you have FIFA fans who play the games through and through get bad rap from their peers, as one of my friends got asked Now think if you had spent your time on something worthwhile other than in FIFA? You could’ve learned how to play the guitar. As said, Yamauchi’s statement that people who have only time in their hands play RPGs, everyone else plays games for a moment’s distraction because they have better things to do.
After all, games are products of entertainment, not a form of high-end art or the like. Both have on thing in common with each other; most people spend only few minutes with them.
This story driven FIFA reminds a little bit how Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater took a similar turn with Tony Hawk’s Underground, a game that splits opinions. While some fans loved it, especially the hardcore gamers, some dismissed it for not keeping things simple an deviating the form. But THPS experienced the same thing, consuming the same formula to the end and in the end needing a drastic revision to stay relevant. Well, THPS as a series died soon after that, and THPS5 was a disaster.
I’m interested to see how a story driven FIFA will be received by the general audience. Those who think games should be all about the narrative and storytelling will surely love this, but those who want just play games will see it in a different light. How it’ll go and be received, we’ll have to see. I hope EA won’t let the same happen to FIFA that happened to other sports games that decided to emphasize story campaign over design in gameplay.