Why the FIFA franchise is still going strong

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From uncertain beginnings in the 16-bit era with the SNES, Mega Drive and Amiga, the FIFA game franchise has taken the world by storm to become a global phenomenon and shows no signs of slowing down.

Other games have enjoyed popularity only to fade into the memory but those with FIFA in the title continue to flourish in all four corners of the globe.

Despite being ignored by Pro Evolution Soccer, even the PS Vita saw a reasonable amount of support from EA’s long-running franchise enjoying four successful releases culminating in FIFA 15 which achieved an impressive 0.66 million sales worldwide.

There are a number of reasons why it has gone from strength to strength and an obvious one is the fact that it is all about the most popular sport in the world.

A cricket video game might have better graphics or be more realistic but would not sell in countries where they do not play the game, and that is the advantage that football/soccer games enjoy – it is played everywhere.

Indeed, a 2014 poll found that 34% of Americans had become soccer fans after playing the FIFA game, while half said it has increased their interest in the sport.

The USA is a nation not generally associated with football despite the emergence of MLS over the past 25 years, and FIFA’s games have educated fans more used to watching basketball, baseball or American football.

Products have to evolve to keep the interest up and that is exactly what the FIFA game franchise has done, with women’s teams now also available.

Whereas players bore no resemblance to real professionals when the game was launched back in the 1990s, today all the traits of the stars can be seen in their virtual versions, with parameters such as speed, stamina and even temperament as accurate as possible.

With more and more football available on TV, fans demand accuracy with their heroes on FIFA games and that is exact what they get, with the days when the ball was ‘glued’ to a player’s foot long gone.

Stadiums look authentic and the whole experience is one that mirrors that of match day when watching a game on television, with data reviewed and updated to ensure that the newest version is always the best.

Indeed reports claim that thousands of football professionals cannot wait to see how they have been portrayed both visually and in the statistics when the latest game hits the shops.

The data that FIFA uses is so accurate that some teams actually use it to scout for new players or to try and gain an advantage over opposition teams prior to a match, while a few players have said how spooky it is to see the similarities between real-life stars on the pitch and their video game counterparts.

When it’s come to the PS Vita ports there’s been no denying the fact that they have looked the part with slick presentation, great sound and in-game graphics and bolstered with playability to match. The real issue has been with the development of the series…

The first title, FIFA Football, was a rebranded handheld version of FIFA 12 from consoles and in all fairness it was an admirable port and well worth owning.

As with other platforms, FIFA 13 was a true update with revised player rosters and new features to give gamers a new instalment in the series. Sadly that was to be the last original FIFA game released for the Vita.

2014s entry into the series for the PS Vita saw nothing more than a basic roster update to the 2013 game for the release of FIFA 14. The same happened again for FIFA 15, which this time was subtitled Legacy Edition. As before, at the heart of it it was the same game as FIFA 13 but with a new player roster. It was to mark the end of FIFA on the Vita leaving a lot of gamers with a bitter taste feeling let down by EA for the lack of real progress in the series. Ironically, FIFA 15 turned out to be the best selling of them all.

PS Vita aside, there have been rivals over the years but FIFA has always kept itself ahead of the game and brand loyalty is assured if you keep the punters happy – something the franchise seems able to do year in year out.

Games that are updated on an annual basis run the risk of what is termed ‘audience fatigue’ but that has never been the case and FIFA addiction is more likely to be the term used in connection with this one.

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