On Friday, September 29, the newest instalment in the world’s leading football simulation game series was finally released worldwide after months of anticipation. Each and every year, fans of the FIFA series receive a new edition and regardless of whether they had problems with the last outing, they are almost guaranteed to buy this new one. In fact, despite the many problems FIFA 16 was reported to have, FIFA 17 was the fastest-selling instalment in the franchise ever.
Although we are sure there are many people around the world who don’t quite understand why FIFA 18 has received so much attention over the last few weeks, this game and its predecessors represent something incredibly important to its players. For teenage boys, for example, FIFA games are more than just a way to pass time, they help them find male friendships, much like the actual sport of football has done for years. Meanwhile, casual gamers enjoy the titles because the business model and gameplay never really changes, ensuring there’s no steep learning curve. They can simply sit in their chair, turn on their console and play for hours – occasionally jumping up to celebrate goals with their computerised counterparts.
While there are undeniable stereotypes surrounding first-person shooters, real-time strategy, massively multiplayer online titles and many other gaming genres, football simulations have managed to avoid the stigma. Instead of conjuring images of players sitting alone in a bedroom or basement with their only light source coming from their television or desktop screen, games like FIFA evoke feelings of companionship, fun and ambition.
This is probably down to the marketing, as FIFA adverts always include A-list athletes playing football against their other famous friends. These football players are idolised and loved by millions of people around the world, and it’s difficult to not want to get involved with them and their game. So, people get involved. FIFA players buy the games, they learn all the names they need to know and they know their favourite character’s stats off by heart.
Of course, with this much influence, it was only a matter of time before the FIFA games began impacting the real-world game of football. If you’ve spoken to a young person about football transfers recently, there’s a really good chance that their opinions are based off of FIFA ratings. This is particularly true for the more unknown players, or ‘wonderkids’. Before many of the current crop of global superstars were known to casual football fans around the world, players knew them from FIFA where their surprisingly strong rankings caught the attention of fans. This, in turn, means that if a footballer is highly rated on FIFA they will receive a better reception in the real world, although the opposite is also true.
It almost goes without saying then, that FIFA is also having an impact on other areas of the gaming industry. Following FIFA’s success, iGaming operators and software developers began focusing on football-centric games a little more than they had done previously. Now, fans of slots and football can play and socialise at numerous online casino sites like Sky Vegas, where there’s Football Star, Football Frenzy and even a Viz-themed football slot.
Another industry impacted by the annual release of FIFA games is music, as the games often feature brand new material from artists known around the world. Already FIFA 18’s soundtrack is said to feature original songs by Lorde, alt-j, Stormzy, The XX and Baloji. Places on their soundtrack are not only reserved for well-known hitmakers, though, as this year’s FIFA promises next-wave grime stars, independent artists and other little-known musicians that are sure to receive a lot more fame following their FIFA debut.
Ultimately, football simulators like FIFA have managed to translate the nuanced culture that originated with fans going to see their favourite teams on a weekend into an interactive, immersive experience that you don’t even have to leave the house for. Plus, it has taken a game that is so beloved by millions and packaged it perfectly for the next generation, ensuring that the beautiful game will live on.
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Featured Photo Credit: EA Sports