With so many games moving towards becoming a live-service, should FIFA become a live service game ?
FIFA has been a behemoth of the sports gaming industry for quite some time, with sparse competition. With a new release every year, EA collects a tidy profit from the FIFA player base for a game that doesn’t see many changes in the grand scheme of things.
What is a Live Service Game?
A LSG is a game that is continually updated post-release, the idea being that there is enough new content being generated to keep players coming back two, three, or even four years after the game’s initial release. In recent years, we’ve seen many game franchises adopt this type of business model, with some of the most popular games adhering to the LSG business model.
Fortnite and GTA Online are just some examples of games as a service that have seen success through the business model.
Current FIFA Model
FIFA offers a few different modes appealing to both online and offline players, with these modes staying largely the same as the previous entry.
- Player Career Mode – A single-player mode where you either create a player or choose a pre-existing one to take over their career until retirement.
- Manager Career Mode – A single-player mode where you manage a team, handling all managerial aspects while also simming or playing the games.
- Pro Clubs – An online mode where you control a created Pro and engage in either drop-in matches or as part of a team with your friends.
- Online Seasons – An online mode where you climb 10 Divisions through online games, using a mixture of teams you choose.
- Co-Op Seasons – The same as online seasons, but with a friend controlling your team alongside you.
- Skill Games – A single player mode, often used while a game is loading where you do various drills that incorporate skill moves.
- Volta – Reminiscent of FIFA Street, this has 3v3, 4v4, 5v5, and Futsal modes.
- Ultimate Team – The crown jewel mode of FIFA, features online and offline gameplay as players attempt to get the best possible team. This is often the most competitive mode of FIFA, with the Weekend League and FUT Champions regularly having professionals playing.
FIFA As a Live Service Game
As FIFA releases a new entry (FIFA 19, FIFA 20, FIFA 21, etc) every year, a lot of these modes lose their “value” to the player base, particularly the online modes. While they can still be played and enjoyed, only a small fraction of the player base tends to stick to older FIFAs, with most of them flocking to the new one—especially if they play Ultimate Team.
The alternative is FIFA moving to a LSG, where we have one game called EA Sports FIFA that can be updated on a continual basis to reflect changes from the real-life game of football (i.e. players moving to a new club, new rules such as VAR, new kits and badges, etc).
They could have an initial price tag attached to the LSG, and then could either set a smaller price tag each year to “upgrade to the new season,” or leave it free with cosmetic items available in micro-transactions.
Benefits of Live Service For FIFA
Improved servers – A lot of FIFA’s player base express disappointment with the FIFA online servers on various FIFA communities online such as r/FIFA, the official FIFA Discord channel, and the EA forums. With older FIFAs still having their servers operational years later, this stretches EA’s server resources thin. Moving to a single LSG rather than a few entries would allow them to pool all of their resources into maintaining servers for just one game.
Improved connection between the player base – Rather than having the player base separated by a multitude of modes and FIFA entries, players would be more connected with each other if they all moved to a live service version.
Value for money – Having FIFAs launch for £60 and quickly become worth less than £10 is annoying for gamers, and means the value in each FIFA title is severely diminished. By having one FIFA game continually updated, it will stop the player base from wasting money on a title each year.
Updates that reflect real life – FIFA games tend to update every couple of months, and will normally incorporate the January transfer window of real-life football into their game. However, transfers that happen late into the FIFA cycle (such as August) aren’t reflected in EA Sports FIFA, which quickly detracts from realism. By moving FIFA to a LSG model, there’d be no need to leave transfers out as an incentive to encourage players to buy the new FIFA, they could instead continually update squads to reflect real-life squads.
Progression retention – Instead of losing all of your progress on a FIFA game when having to migrate to the new one, a live service game could have progress carrying over season-to-season, and feeling more worth it to the player base. In Ultimate Team specifically, this could prove to be a great thing. As players feel less pressure to get the best squad full of 90+ rated players in order to compete against everyone else, retaining progression would encourage them to then experiment with other squads.
Features accountability – EA tends to recycle features; meaning they take a feature out of FIFA (create a club), and then re-introduce it years later as a groundbreaking new feature (create a club for FIFA 22). This obviously irritates FIFA gamers who have a half-decent memory, as they can see straight through the marketing speak and remember that features are taken out only to be put in later. By moving to a LSG, it would give EA more accountability and prevent them from quietly taking out features only to add them to a later title marketed as “new.”
Drawbacks of FIFA As a Live Service
Changes to Ultimate Team – While many players dislike the loss of their squad when migrating over to the newest FIFA title, many players enjoy the grind as part of the Ultimate Team experience, particularly from October to Christmas. If FIFA became a LSG, and progression was retained in FUT, it would mean players lose that grind once they’ve gotten the team they want.
Vulnerability to servers – If the servers were to suffer an issue, or a console network such as PSN or Xbox Live had an outage, it could prevent players from playing any FIFA modes until the problem is resolved.
Meta abuse – FIFA tends to have a slightly different meta each year. If it became a LSG, then the meta would likely stay the same throughout until a new season update. This could make meta abuse a more prevalent problem.
Increase of microtransactions – EA has demonstrated their affinity towards microtransactions countless times. Moving to a LSG model could encourage them to increase microtransactions that are pay-to-win in nature, especially considering Ultimate Team already operates under a pay-to-win business model.
eFootball PES is FIFA’s main/ only competitor. While FIFA has consistently come out on top, there have been periods of time where the tides threatened to turn in PES’ favor.
Konami recently announced that PES 2022 will be rebranded into eFootball, and will be completely free-to-play. What’s more, it will be cross-play and there will be new competitive modes added with a view on bringing it to Esports. It’s also believed they will be adding a Match Pass, which is their version of a battle pass that rival games have gone onto implement.
With eFootball making a concerted effort to knock FIFA off of its perch, EA would do well to stay ahead of the competition and follow suit with the live-service model.
Is It Time for FIFA to Change?
After so many years operating under the same business model, is it time for FIFA to change into a live-service game?
There are benefits and drawbacks to this, but it would certainly be an interesting change that could go a long way in repairing the player base’s perception of the franchise and of EA themselves.