#120: Final score
Thoughts on the end of EA and FIFA's 30-year relationship. Plus: a rare special offer on subscriptions!
Before we get going: it is my birthday, and by way of celebration — or the other thing, really — I am knocking 20% off paid subscriptions from now until Sunday. It applies to both monthly and annual subs (if you’re asking I’d prefer monthly, as it’s easier to keep track of regular income). You can also gift a subscription to a friend, if that’s your thing. Behold the buttons!
EA and FIFA have confirmed a parting of ways, bringing an end to one of the longest-running and most successful videogame licensing agreements in history. The announcement follows months of leaks that made it clear negotiations over the licence’s renewal were doomed for failure, with FIFA overestimating its value to EA, and EA believing that the game had outgrown the licence and was capable of going its own way. There was also some disagreement over NFTs, apparently, but every time I write about those I lose a few readers and I can’t be doing with that on my birthday, so let’s pretend they don’t exist (which, looking at crypto prices today, may not be the stuff of fantasy for long).
This has been presented in some quarters as seismic news, and I imagine that had it happened 15 or 20 years ago it would have been. Of course, most of the people covering and commenting on the news (cough) are of enough of a vintage to remember the days when the FIFA licence was all that EA’s game really had going for it. Pro Evolution Soccer was comfortably the purist’s choice, offering a more accurate and enjoyable simulation of the beautiful game year in, year out. But it was routinely outsold by FIFA, because the licence made it feel more lifelike. It had Sky Sports commentators, real-world stadiums, accurate team and player names, and up-to-date kit designs. Pro Evo may have played a better game of football, but FIFA looked like the real thing, and in the eyes of the great unwashed that was all that mattered.
Over the years that has changed in two fundamental ways. First, EA has struck individual deals with clubs, leagues and players for image rights; FIFA, by this point, is just a brand name, and EA has calculated, probably correctly, that its game is strong and recognisable enough to stand alone; both EA Sports and Ultimate Team are every bit as core to the overall branding as the FIFA bit. Secondly, EA’s game has got much better over the years, while Konami’s has grown steadily worse, to the point that it is now as much a byword for the publisher’s very public bed-shitting as its handling of Kojima and Metal Gear. The masses still buy FIFA every year, yes. But these days they are correct to do so.
So, yes, to those of us that grew up obsessing over our Pro Evo Master League team — telling our FIFA-playing friends that it didn’t matter if Man Utd were called Man Red, or that its players had names like Ryan Greggs and Ruud vom Mistelroum, because PES was the better game — EA and FIFA parting ways is a big deal. But it is small potatoes in the wider scheme of things, and it appears to have caused barely a flutter among the FIFA community. My friend, fellow consultant, and dyed-in-the-wool FIFA nutjob Tom Bramwell pointed out that his Ultimate Team Discord pals barely raised an eyebrow at the news.
So, for the first time in… ever, I think, I am with EA on this. Ultimate Team makes billions, and while the proposed new name — EA Sports FC — is obviously terrible, I am sure the publisher’s bean-counters are sleeping easy. EA can market the hell out of EA Sports FC within its final version of FIFA and be confident that most of the existing audience will make the switch. FIFA, meanwhile, appears to be in dreamland as it outlines its plans for life after EA, which I realise I shouldn’t be surprised by but still somehow am. “I can assure you that the only authentic, real game that has the FIFA name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino parped, in a rather Trumpian press release. “The FIFA name is the only global, original title. FIFA 23, FIFA 24, FIFA 25 and FIFA 26, and so on — the constant is the FIFA name and it will remain forever and remain THE BEST." My word. I think perhaps Gianni has overindulged in the wares of one of FIFA’s many official beverage partners.
Elsewhere in the statement FIFA says it is “engaging with publishers, studios and investors on development of [a?] major new simulation football title[s?] for 2024.” I mean, look. There is definitely an argument that, by partnering up with the right company, FIFA could eventually reclaim its crown from EA. The current FIFA may be better than whatever Konami is calling Pro Evo this week, but it is by no means perfect. A Tencent or similar could come along and, with enough time and development resource, turn out something that makes EA’s game look like Hat-Trick Hero. But… you’re going to stand up a best-in-class football sim in two years? Ha. Something to look forward to at least. Perhaps there’s hope for Pro Evo yet.
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Lots of excellent responses to Monday’s musings on lifetime gaming stats. That piece got quite a lot of likes, too. It’s almost as if list features… spark a level of engagement that is wildly disproportionate to how quick and easy they are to produce? Who knew! Let’s try not to learn anything from that.
“I was absolutely horrified when Sony sent me an email at the end of last year telling me how much time I had sunk into the very mediocre Avengers game,” writes Seán. “I think I may prefer ignorance, to delude myself that I didn't waste that many precious hours navigating clumsy menus comparing incredibly boring loot.”
“The total number of fictional people killed would be an interesting and somewhat grotesque statistic,” says DeferredPaper. “Even looking at a single game where you rack up 10,000+ kills is quite gross when you think about it. I appreciate it's all just a game, but there's something odd about knowing I've shot perhaps 500,000 videogame people dead.” Argh, yes. Even better/worse: total bodycount of innocent civilians, perhaps split between deliberate and accidental kills, and the percentage of each to whom you apologised as you did it.
“I’ve always thought about this specifically for GTA,” says Tom. “I’d love to see a lifetime stats page for cars stolen, pedestrians hit, incorrect cheat code entries, total money earned through shady behaviour and most importantly, hours spent listening to Master Sounds 98.3 in GTA:SA.” Great shout. Let’s all listen to Master Sounds right now.
“I'd always smugly thought I was the only one who did this,” says the excellently monikered Dark Cod, in response to the bit about running left at the start of the level in a 2D platformer. “Then there was an achievement for it in one of the Rayman games and my bubble was burst. I think it was called That's Not Right.” That’s an excellent achievement name. I must do a Hit Points on good achievement design at some point. Think I wrote an Edge column on it back in the day.
Thanks to everyone who got in touch. Once again, a reminder: either reply to this email, or click the comment button below, for the chance of seeing your name up in the bright lights of the Hit Points MAILBAG. Onwards!
Ah jeez, it’s fiscal-results season. We’ll avoid the avalanche of dollar signs and percentages, if you don’t mind, and focus on the main themes.
Just about everyone is suffering from the semiconductor shortage, and a lull after the enormous growth gaming companies saw when the pandemic was (hopefully) at its peak. Both Sony and Nintendo missed hardware forecasts by a mile. Shares in Roblox fell by around 10% after the company whiffed on its active-user and revenue targets.
It’s not all bad, though. Bandai Namco’s profits are up by over 50%, buoyed by 13.4m sales of Elden Ring. Capcom posted record profits for the fifth year in a row. Apex Legends, meanwhile, has passed $2bn in lifetime revenue.
By the time you read this, Nintendo will have broadcast its latest Indie World Showcase — meaning that by the time you read this the Hollow Knight community will either be finally in raptures, or once again in despair. (edit: poor sods. ElecHead, though!)
Nintendo’s foray into mobile may be coming to an end. Its development partner DeNA has announced it is “moving to the next stage in enhancing the relationship between the two companies”, it says here, which sounds… promising? But DeNA also announced the sale of half of the 1.24% stake in Nintendo it acquired when the deal was first agreed, which seems rather ominous. Hmm.
Warner Bros has cancelled the planned PS4 and Xbox One versions of delayed comic-book co-opper Gotham Knights “to provide players with the best possible experience.” Unless those players are on PS4 or Xbox One, obviously.
Following the success of its Adaptive Controller for Xbox, Microsoft has unveiled a suite of PC accessibility peripherals. Lovely stuff.
There we go! Heavens, what a bumper edition. I hope it has convinced some of you to stump up some cash in support; with the current limited-time discount a paid subscription costs about 11p per day and helps ensure Hit Points, with its absence of advertising, affiliate linkery or corporate backing, can continue landing in your inbox three times a week. If not, perhaps you’ll give this a share using the button below. Have a grand couple of days, and I’ll see you all on Friday. Cheerio!