Monday, 27 October 2014

Why does EA's FIFA disappoint some people EVERY YEAR?


It happens every September. A new FIFA game comes out and along with it comes a barrage of hate. "FIFA 15 is the worst FIFA yet. EA just hype up the game to let everyone down.", exclaims user 'oritepal' on the EA forums. Nathan Ditum of The Telegraph claims "FIFA 15 fails to greatly differentiate itself from its previous incarnations"- user 'Bada_bing8' agrees, dubbing 15 "another pointless iteration".

These people are often justified in their criticisms- EA seems to have a habit of hyping up their 'upgrades' to the game that change it little- they even dedicated a whole trailer of such revolutionary features, such as visibly breathing players and, best of all, moving corner flags. Meanwhile they often postpone their often impressive upgrades for later iterations.
And this is before we get to some of the worst aspects of FIFA- including endless in-game microtransactions, and sometimes unbearable online servers.

Despite this, FIFA is the best-selling video game in the UK, and has been so since its release. Hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of gamers worldwide are quickly hooked onto each FIFA iteration as soon as it is released- I myself have been one of them before.
Why? The answer's pretty simple. These gamers aren't stupid- they don't buy games that suck- FIFA evidently has a lot going for it. It's an addictive game, but that's not the only reason why people buy it.
People often buy it because there's nothing better. Football is the world's most popular sport, so evidently a good quality, constantly innovating football video game is what many people want. But FIFA doesn't always offer this- as we've covered earlier.
So, someone who knew nothing about video games would ask the question- why don't they buy another football game? A better one?
The principle is a core of business economics. It's what people believe to be the democratic part of consumerism- that if you don't like a product 'x', you stop buying it, and buy another, product 'y'. If enough people do it, the company making product 'x' will see a fall in profits and therefore to boost them, they will improve product 'x' to be as good as 'y'.

But this can't happen with regards to FIFA. Why? Because there's only 1 alternative to FIFA- and that has been suffering in past years. Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) has always been in FIFA's shadow in the sports game industry- Konami, makers of PES have not even been able to launch PES 15 by the key September month- they expect to release in early November, two months behind FIFA.

The difference between the success of the two titles is staggering- in 2012/13, EA sold 13.5 million copies of its FIFA 13 title- Konami a paltry 1.9 million. PES 15 in priciple is competition to FIFA, but in reality it is nowhere near.

EA has almost total domination of the football games market- they have no effective competition, they have a monopoly. What does this mean?

This means they have little pressure to develop their games, to innovate, to make them better. If FIFA 16 is not that much better than 15, EA will be safe in the knowledge that they're not going to lose all of their customers- simply because PES is not effective enough competition to steal away customers. This makes complacency- the key reason why EA perhaps does not improve FIFA as much as they could every year.

It's also why EA can afford to offer so many microtransactions- they stand nothing to lose from it, because people will not avoid FIFA solely because of them; PES doesn't even have a similar game mode. EA can only profit from those who choose to spend extra money furnishing their Ultimate Team.

So, why couldn't PES improve and catch up? Again, the answer is monopoly. If you've ever played PES, you'll notice that many teams don't have real kits of club badges, or even names. Chelsea FC is creatively called 'London Blues', Arsenal 'North London'.
This is because PES needs licensing to use the real kits and badges of these clubs- but who holds exclusive rights to Premier League licensing? That's right, EA- it's exclusive to the FIFA series.
And this issue has for long been the key weakness of PES. No matter how realistic the match engine is, it's a straight turn off for many if they can't play in the kit, or even use the name of their favourite club.

Windows Vista, the software that gave nightmares
to millions of users.
Monopolies can cause businesses in general to become lazy, complacent and stuck in the past. Significant examples other than FIFA could include Microsoft in the noughties (stuck in the daze of Windows XP's monopoly), and AT&T and Verizon in the USA- cellphone providers who have been the bane of many a phone user's life in America, largely due to poor customer service and inflating contract prices.

And many monopolistic companies will be happy to gobble up any potential competition. In 2011, AT&T made an attempt to acquire T-Mobile, the closest competitor of the two aforementioned providers. Why? Because if T-Mobile then got a larger share of the cellphone market, AT&T would not be threatened- if they owned T-Mobile, they'd in fact make a profit from that. T-Mobile's share of the market would be gobbled up by AT&T- decreasing competition and furthering market monopoly.

There are so many ways a lazy company can block competition and thus increase their monopoly. There are basic stuff we don't always notice- for example patents are a formidable way of blocking competition in a new and emerging market.
On the other hand, companies can open up themselves to competition- like Tesla, who earlier this year opened up all their patents to their competition. Giving up patents, exclusivity rights, whatever monopolistic agreements, will not create an easy ride for any company but it can give them the kick they need to provide genuine improvements to their products.

If EA was not hiding behind their exclusive Premier League licensing, if PES shared the same rights, FIFA would be far more threatened- PES would still have a far way to go but perhaps EA would receive the kick it needs to provide genuine and lasting innovation to its customers.


Mohammad Lone Editor