Thirty years after it made its football debut, EA Sports FC is set to launch its first game to millions of football fans around the world.
The name might be different, but make no mistake, EA Sports FC 24 is very much the next instalment in the iconic FIFA football game series from publisher EA, except that with the end of the licensing agreement, the 30-year-old video game franchise now has a new name.
Otherwise, everything that fans know and love about the popular football game that lets players create their own teams with well-known footballers, remains the same, including the retention of licences of more than 19,000 players across over 700 teams, now playing in over 100 stadiums over 30 football leagues.
And this new chapter in the series has been several years coming, says Sam Rivera, Senior Producer of EA Sports FC 24 from Sydney, Australia, where throngs of football-mad media and content creators, including Geek Culture, are gathered at the Museum of Contemporary Art to learn more of the future of video game football.
“This is a very big year that we’ve been planning for multiple years,” teased Rivera.The location is fitting as, at the moment, both Australia and New Zealand are currently co-hosting the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but instead of being out at the stadiums, all eyes are towards a new coming of the biggest football video game franchise, with EA Sports unveiling more details about EA Sports FC 24 and EA Sports FC Mobile.
EA Sports FC 24
With millions of players jumping into the annualised franchise for some virtual footy every single week, a name change doesn’t seem to have any impact on player expectations, which means that EA Sports can either take things easy or launch a new chapter with more offerings for fans.
“We started 30 years ago; however, why I’m saying that this year is very special is because we’re adding those three pieces of technology with volumetric capture, and then PlayStyles informed by Opta, which is another piece we’re very proud of, and the enhanced Frostbite engine altogether, makes a better game,” said Rivera.
“This is not something that happens every year,”
Rather than feel down and disappointed at losing what is ostensibly the biggest name in the sport, this fresh start means that EA Sports FC can forge new partnerships with more freedom, including with brands like Nike, without crossing swords with the international football governing body. The commitment of the different leagues around the world is already in place, making sure players don’t just get to see the likes of the Premier League and La Liga superstars in action, but also all the accompanying tactical setups of the various coaches and managers.
While complaints about the minimal changes between each yearly entry are well-founded, the team is keen to continue iterating for marginal gains, just like at the highest levels of the sport.
The implementation of PlayStyles, the X-factor that separates the elite from the rest of the pack, in EA Sports FC 24 is one such move. In total, 34 unique PlayStyles will be part of the meta when the game launches, and trying to nail them down has required plenty of hard work that will likely pay off when fans get their hands on their favourite teams.
“It’s literally a lot of discussion between the production team, the design team, the engineering team, and trying to analyse the pro players, what mechanics they’re using, what’s important for the game. There are a lot of discussions around what’s important that we don’t really have in terms of attributes, and then we basically expand on those we see; that’s how we came up with the five different categories with defending, goalkeeper, passing, shooting, and ball control,” shared Rivera.
There is no doubt worries about potential balancing issues, but the producer was quick to reassure us that while automation is part of the process in determining PlayStyles for players, the feedback of the community will be important as well, making sure features like this are “noticeable and usable, but not overpowered.”
Expect to see plenty of tuning in time to come after the launch on 29 September, but the base enjoyment remains. The game is still the best option for many players out there, and EA Sports’ dominance on this front is all but assured, judging from the cries of joy and anguish at the event.
EA Sports FC Mobile
As for the mobile cousin of the mainline game set to launch on 26 September, EA Sports FC Mobile will cater to another group of players and feature intuitive gameplay controls that will introduce a new level of immersion, without necessarily taking away the spotlight for its more popular counterpart.
Think of it as the chasing pack behind the biggest clubs, who reap the benefits of learning from what the best of the best can do, but at the same time, finding its own way of entertaining players with a bespoke experience.
“It’s not about just copying or taking any feature of our big brother. It’s identifying which features make sense for the mobile platform,” explained Timo Mueller, Gameplay Producer, with conviction.
Taking a parallel approach, the mobile experience will see the addition of True Player Personality, which brings the most recognisable players to life on the go. The Elite Shooting System is a revamped one that rewards smart shooting decisions, and with the Power Shot, players will have more weapons available to get on the scoresheet.
“A good example is the elite shooting system. That puts a lot more focus on the use of skill. And yes, we are bridging the gap, and I think our game is maturing.”
Similarly, Knock On Dribble will give pacy attackers more licence to beat their men, while Hard Tackles will give the defence more opportunities to snatch back possession and ensure the attacking team has no chance to recover. All of these new features will complement the dynamic game speed of EA Sports FC Mobile, giving players more time to enjoy themselves and the action. It might not be as polished as the console versions, but this is what is going to work for the mobile players, another example of EA Sports’ commitment to catering to as large an audience as possible.
And with so many possible devices to play on, the team is working hard behind the scenes to ensure parity across the board. We were told that assistance options can be tweaked to find the perfect playing experience, there is wider button spacing will help with customisation, and more options will be coming in the future as well.
With the console, PC, and mobile markets locked down, and having built up a strong following over the decades, the EA Sports FC brand looks to go from strength to strength, even without the notable FIFA branding. It remains to be seen just how the players will take to the different experiences, but the new technology and innovations put in place are setting this juggernaut of video game football for success, and that’s how the team likes it.