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"Fifa 23" as the last part of the series: The game that must never be perfect


EA Sports released a new "Fifa" for the last time on Friday. The series stands for an era in which digital football has detached itself from the real model - and in which money is more important than before.

"Quitting smoking was so much easier" - that's what a journalist colleague wrote to me the other day when we were chatting about the release of "Fifa 23".

In the online mode "Fifa Ultimate Team" he would soon "kick back his addiction to collecting," he said, and he was "very excited" about the new part.

The colleague is around 40 years old and, to start this football text with a phrase, has both feet on the ground.

But the new "Fifa" edition turns him into a gambler autumn after autumn, who finds it difficult to put the controller down.

And this despite the fact that he knows that, like every year, he will be annoyed by occasional AI dropouts.

Or about the fact that other, often younger gamers put more time and money into »Fifa Ultimate Team« than he does and therefore play with star-studded teams that make his rumble squad look old even before the kick-off.

The fact that my colleague describes the computer game as a vice that he looks forward to at the same time says something about him.

I think he's a little ashamed of his love-hate relationship with FIFA Ultimate Team, so I'll omit his name here as well.

His statements tell a lot more about »Fifa«.

They show how a video game, whose manufacturer EA Sports set out to present football as authentically as possible digitally in 1993, has become a product over the years that no longer draws its appeal and potential for addiction from sports simulation alone.

Digital Football Commerce

"Fifa Ultimate Team", or "FUT" for short, is by far the most popular game mode and is therefore the one most strongly promoted by the developers.

It is a game within a game, which also breaks the team boundaries of real football in »Fifa 23«, which is coming onto the market for 60 to 100 euros.

With the help of digital trading cards, millions of users will again create fantasy teams in »FUT« and compete with them against the teams of others.

So-called packs provide the professional replenishment.

You can earn this by playing regularly and well.

But you can also buy them simply by converting real money into so-called »Fifa Points«.

A standard pack costs the equivalent of 1.50 euros.

The chance that a world star is in it is infinitesimally small - and yet there are "Fifa" fans who invest hundreds or thousands of euros in such packs year after year.

»FUT« is the digital variant of football commerce, but a mega hit worldwide.

People like me, who prefer to spend their time in »Fifa« with duels in real clubs, have long been outnumbered, a bunch of traditionalists who are ridiculed.

My colleague, on the other hand, does it like the majority: he doesn't buy the latest edition because he really wants to play against each other with the women's football clubs from England and France, which have now been integrated for the first time.

He's eager for the game to start chasing stars again for his ultimate team, knowing he'll never touch his fantasy club from last year.

What remains of the »Fifa« era?

"Fifa 23" is the 30th part of the series and at the same time the last one from EA Sports that will be called that.

The manufacturer and the world association Fifa fell out during the negotiations for the naming rights.

In the follow-up game, EA Sports will still include the 2022 men's World Cup and the 2023 women's World Cup, but in future the manufacturer wants to market its football games with the title "EA Sports FC".

It's the end of an era, at least on paper.

But what will be remembered about "Fifa 23" and the series?

more on the subject

  • Why the game "Fifa" is no longer called "Fifa": Double own goal An analysis by Markus Böhm and Daniel Montazeri

  • New name for the soccer video game: This is what “Fifa” will be called in the future by Markus Böhm and Daniel Montazeri

In any case, EA Sports' clever, bold approach to ritualizing the game purchase.

There are two perspectives on the fact that a new part has appeared year after year since 1993.

First, the one that puts the manufacturer in a bad light because every fall it charges an entrance fee for a virtual world that is almost the same as the previous year.

In a world in which Erling Haaland now plays for Manchester City instead of Borussia Dortmund in "Fifa 23" and in which there are now so-called power shots;

as if Haaland hadn't been able to shoot hard enough so far.

A new "Fifa" is always supposed to be an all-encompassing, drastically revised football game, but everyone knows that the developers will supposedly have even better ideas for the following year.

The really perfect football simulation, it would be poison for the marketing department of EA Sports.

So it always remains with the fine and rough tuning, which is why EA Sports for "Fifa 23" in all seriousness also stages things like a "revision of the basics such as shooting, passing and dribbling" as an incentive to buy.

A new game for a new season

The second perspective is less cynical: A football season starts every fall, and that includes a new "Fifa" in which everyone starts from scratch and whose slightly different mechanics you can get to grips with over the next few months.

It doesn't really matter whether the new power shots are too strong or too weak.

Better anything new than boredom and getting used to it.

A few years ago, Marek Brunner, who is jointly responsible for age ratings for games at the USK, estimated that nine out of ten fans bought the new FIFA without looking at it.

If you take this assessment further, EA Sports could only commit one gross foul every autumn: if it suddenly no longer publishes a new game.

In addition to millions of gamers, this would probably also confuse many real football professionals, who regularly herald the new "Fifa" season with numerous social media posts.

The game has long been part of pop culture: musicians sing about it in songs, while YouTubers celebrate opening the pack.

EA Sports can claim that it has made digital football more varied.

The company also used its various license deals to slow down former competitors like Konami ("Pro Evolution Soccer") the hard way.

But the EA Sports guiding principle "It's in the game", i.e. having as much authentic and interesting things as possible in the game, has also led to the fact that the world of football is now represented quite broadly.

more on the subject

  • The strange world of "Fifa" trading: "It must be absurd for outsiders" An interview by Markus Böhm

  • "Fifa 98" rediscovered: The most brutal game of my lifeBy Markus Böhm

  • Emotions when gambling: That's why so many gamers are freaking out because of "Fifa" by Markus Böhm and Daniel Montazeri

Since "Fifa 18", for example, the series has had the entire first three German soccer leagues on board and since "Fifa 16" it has also offered women's soccer a stage that is even more present this year (see photo gallery).

The street football mode Volta, which has been integrated since »Fifa 20«, is also a nice addition to the classic professional kicks.

Previously, EA Sports released such modes as standalone games.

»FUT«, the revolution of digital soccer

The actual genre revolution is and remains "FUT", the game within the game that the EA Sports developers originally thought up in 2007 for the series offshoot "UEFA Champions League 2006-2007" - at that time there was still no way to spend real money.

Since "Fifa 12" "FUT" has been firmly integrated into every series part.

Anyone who has invested umpteen hours or umpteen euros in that mode knows how powerful it is.

»FUT« is a 24/7 showdown with other players.

There are various explanations for defeats: Either you didn't play well enough or your own team wasn't well enough filled.

Maybe both are true.

And while you're philosophizing about your strengths and weaknesses, EA Sports keeps bringing new cards to the »FUT« top stars onto the market, so that at some point there will no longer be just one very good Haaland variant, but several even better ones.

It is also tricks like this that motivate players to stay on the ball with »FUT«.

Tricks somewhere between gambling mechanics and the sunk cost fallacy.

The latter is a psychological pitfall, it is about the human tendency to find it difficult to let go of something that has already invested a lot of time, effort or money.

EA itself has no reason to shake the principle of "FUT": Every comeback of the mode flushes hundreds of millions of euros into the company's coffers - and for players like my colleague, every new start inspires hope that everything could be better this year they run.

But of course you also have to say: With its Pay2Win-like model, »FUT« has made digital football unfair because, in addition to skill and time commitment, the financial strength of the users also has an influence on their team strength.

Anyone who cares about equal opportunities when playing online games should run a storm – or stay away.

But the reality is different: With every euro they spend on packs, the players cement the relevance of the mode year after year.

Through Bande, they themselves voted for »FUT« to be exactly what it is.

Star hype instead of real freedom of choice

It is also noteworthy that closeness to reality no longer plays a major role in »FUT«.

The best variations of the top stars are overrated on purpose to make them desirable.

And in many "FUT" teams are in real life

already deceased legends like Pelé and Gerd Müller on the pitch, because users really want to have the best of the best in their team.

The mode indulges in the star cult.

Of course you can also build a best of the squads from Fortuna Düsseldorf and Hansa Rostock, which even simplifies a new formula for the so-called team chemistry in "Fifa 23".

But if you want to be at the top of various leaderboards, it is more advisable to hunt down Bundesliga or Premier League professionals with the help of so-called "Fifa" trading.

Even outside of »FUT«, the focus of the new »Fifa« is again heavily on personalities.

When it comes to goals, for example, EA Sports tends to focus more on the celebration than on the replay.

This staging of football as a permanent spectacle dominates the game like no other.

Anyone who plays a so-called "career" in the offline mode of the new part now even has the option of only playing the highlights of each game themselves.

So you get one dangerous attack after another in quick succession, there is no midfield skirmish.

Soccer action remix.

Ultimately, the last "Fifa" that will be called that will remain a game that is bought more out of tradition than out of conviction.

A game with many modes and the usual gameplay, with cool menu music and an impressive stadium atmosphere, especially in the next-gen versions.

And of course »Fifa 23« is also a game that still offers potential for improvement next year.

Because somehow EA Sports has to lure people to “EA Sports FC” – and my colleagues to the next round “FUT”, then probably without the “F”.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-09-27

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