Is FIFA’s Soccer Dominance Under Threat From a New Challenger?

For many years, the title of the best soccer game has gone to one of just two contenders. The underdog was always the Pro Evolution Soccer series from Konami, a game seen as one for the purists but lacking licenses and polish. Certainly, in terms of sales, the champion was the flagship EA Sports title, FIFA.

Indeed, the FIFA vs. PES argument sprang up year after year, with financials pointing to FIFA as the best and feedback from hardcore soccer fans suggesting PES had found a niche. All that is set to change in 2023, as the soccer game landscape sees widespread change.

EA Sports are rebranding, dropping its association with FIFA and striking out as EA Sports FC. Konami has already altered its game plan, stepping away from yearly issues of PES to focus on a single title that runs for seasons online. Now, a third contender is looking to steal market share, hoping to seize upon the moment of weakness from the others and make a name for themselves in the otherwise closed world of soccer games.

Ultimate Football League, known as UFL, is due to drop sometime in late 2022, possibly seizing upon the popularity of the World Cup in Qatar. That tournament won’t be featured on the game because rather than delivering real leagues to compete in, UFL is focusing on an Ultimate Team-style approach. For those who do not know, Ultimate Team is the game mode within EA Sports title which has raked in billions of dollars. It allows gamers to build their teams from a selection of superstars that they either buy or earn by winning games. UFL hopes to turn that game mode into a standalone title.

They’re already backed by big names, including Premier League side West Ham United. If developers Strikerz Inc timed their release well in terms of their competition, they did the same with their partnerships: West Ham has just registered their first back-to-back top-ten finishes in the Premier League since 2000. Back then, they finished in the top 10 three years in a row, and they’re likely to be among the favorites in the Coral Premier League odds to do the same next season. Strikerz Inc has also hooked up with Rangers, beaten Europa League finalists Celtic who reclaimed their Scottish Premier League title, and Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk. That’s a great selection of real-life teams to hook up with.

The big question will be this: does the gameplay well? They claim that whilst you can build your team as with FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode, it will not be a pay-to-win system, which the EA Sports’ title has been criticized for. That will obviously appeal to players, but if the on-pitch action isn’t up to scratch, all their good intentions will fail.

Graphically the game looks good; a trailer dropped at the beginning of the year, which saw some great animations, although players were more generic from the neck down. An analysis of the game from Goal revealed that tattoos were not accurately recreated on players, nor their unique uniform accessories, such as wrist tape. However, if it produces a tough and skilful game, then none of that fluff matters; PES proved that by having strong sales with few licenses.

With its strong partnerships and ‘free to play, fair to play’ mantra, UFL appears to be a real challenger on the field, but we’ll learn nothing until its debut, expected towards the end of 2022.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.