Did you know that the first computer game ever created was a sports simulator? It was called Tennis for Two, and it was programmed by American physicist William Higinbotham in 1958 using a Donner Model 30 analogue computer and using an oscilloscope as a display.
Sports games have come a long way since then, no matter if you think of the sports simulators of our times or hyper-casual games, like the new and improved Football Star slot machine recently launched atSpin Casino
. Sports games have come a long way since the time they consisted of a few bright dots displayed on a screen: today, you can play them on pretty much any device (especially the Spin Casino slots - those are not hardware-hungry at all) and at any level. Even as a sport.
It may sound a bit ironic but playing sports simulators on a computer has itself become a sport - a mind sport, that is. One of the prominent and long-running sports eSports leagues is FIFA eSports that emerged around a decade ago.
Surprising as it may sound, though, the popularity of EA Sports’ FIFA series, FIFA eSports never took off as a top-tier eSport, even if it is supported by FIFA itself.
FIFA (the game, not the football governing body) is the best-selling video game franchise of all time. Since its inception in 1993, EA Sports (and its predecessors) has sold a staggering 282 million units of the game on all platforms - from SEGA’s MegaDrve to Google’s Stadia. And it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down: the new version is set to be released on October 1st, will have Kylian Mbappé on its cover.
The FIFA series is played by video game enthusiasts and football fans alike. Perhaps more surprisingly, it has many professional footballers among its players: Mbappé himself, along with Erling Haaland, Joao Felix, and Trent Alexander-Arnold, among others, are also players - and they are often featured in the advertising (or, in the case of Mbappé, the cover) for the game.
FIFA (the governing body, not the game) itself supports the game, not just as the licensor but also as a driving force behind its competitive discipline, FIFA eSports.
This makes you wonder - how can a game with such a massive player base and such powerful brands (and personalities) behind it miss out on the mainstream of eSports?
Some of the most important hurdles in front of FIFA’s eSports growth are the ones players have complained a lot about in recent years, saying that their only choice is to “learn to live with them”: the game engine, the gameplay, and its dependence on AI.
In an effort to make the simulation as realistic as possible, the game becomes wonky and unbalanced. This makes it impossible to truly master the mechanics of the game. Plus, the game depends on artificial intelligence - after all, the player only controls one player at the time, with the other 10 relying on AI. One can’t use clever tactics to play when they don’t control 90% of the players in the field.
The only way FIFA could measure up to the popular eSports of today would be to make it a truly team-based sport - put a player in control of each and every simulated player on the turf. But this would be borderline impossible to pull off.
Until these, and other issues - like the complicated and hard to follow qualifications for the eWorldCup, the small number of streams to follow, and the inherent imbalances in the game - are solved, the FIFA franchise will not become the eSport that it could be.
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