Every year EA, 2K and other developers gear up to release their latest instalment of whichever franchise they control, and us fans eagerly await, telling ourselves that we need this game, and that it’s going to be a new game from last years. But is it really ever any different? Or at least different enough to justify the £50 price tag. Having been an avid FIFA fan, buying each release for over a decade, I’m here to talk about the problems with yearly sports releases.
If you watched the conclusion to our FIFA Fantasy Lockdown league, you may remember it being discussed I recently made the switch to PES. It wasn’t because I believed FIFA is a bad game, I’ve spent hours playing it, and whilst FIFA 20 has its issues, the main reason I made the switch was because I needed something that felt fresh to play. If you’ve played any of the past few entries in the FIFA franchise, you may as well of played them all. It’s not just FIFA that has this issue of gameplay feeling stale either. Having recently reviewed Madden 21, I really enjoyed my experience with it, it had its flaws, but the actual gameplay was really enjoyable. If you look at its Metacritic user score though, you would question why anyone is playing this game at all with a shocking 0.2 score. I know not to take Metacritic user scores too seriously, but as it’s being written by the fans, it’s clear to see that there’s huge frustration amongst the Madden community.
In fact, diving deeper into Metacritic user scores, it’s clear to see that this is a recurring problem, and one that has been building for a while. Madden’s score has dropped yearly for at least the past 5 years, starting at a 5.7 score with Madden 16. FIFA has the same drop off in fans perception dropping from 4.9 with FIFA 17 to a 1.2 with FIFA 20. Don’t think this is just an EA issue though, 2K has the same drop off in scores since NBA 2K16 having a 6.7 going to a 0.9 with NBA 2K21.
So, what has caused this supposed drop off in quality between these games? Are they actually getting worse or are fans getting jaded? I can’t compare the differences between the 2K and Madden series having only played one of each of the games from those years, but when it comes to FIFA it’s clear the developers focus is being dedicated somewhere else whilst being pushed for a dedicated release date. I don’t want to hate on the developers, I’m sure none of them are trying to create a subpar game, I’m sure they all want to create the best game possible for the fans. The issue is that we know to create a truly great game takes longer than 12 months. There’s a reason lots of the biggest titles often get delayed, because if you try rush these games, you’ll end up with something buggy and frustrating to play. The biggest example of this is WWE 2K20, a game that at release was borderline unplayable, and ended up having countless customers demand refunds. There’s a reason these games have constant updates throughout their life cycle.
These games lure us in though, with the promise of a hot new “game mode” or these “dynamic movements” but ultimate, whilst we know these won’t make too much impact on gameplay, we continue to buy these games as we want the have the most realistic experience with the updated rosters and visuals. Many people question why don’t these games just release the latest edition as a patch, like PES is doing for ePES21. The answer is simple, MONEY.
These developers have a monopoly on each respective series. They make millions from each release, let alone the unfathomable amounts the make from however they implement micro-transactions. They would be complete fools to do what PES are doing this year, who are probably doing it as a way to try bring in some new fans and try claw back some of the market share against FIFA. The monopoly these games enjoy may well be the biggest issue they have. Competition breeds creativity and risk, which a lot of these games lack, they go through the motions each year but ultimately have no reason to change the systems they’ve created as from a business standpoint they’re succeeding.
So ultimately the issues with these games are the fact that we keep buying them. Until that changes, until the profit margins go down, expect to see another edition either FIFA, Madden or 2K grace the shelves of your local game store at the same time every year, with minimal changes each time.