Soccer is an iconic sport with over 200 years of history. Naturally, such a historic sport was bound to become part of everyday life. More than one billion people tuned in to watch the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It stands to reason that such a popular sport would become a video gaming powerhouse. Today, we’ll walk you through the history of soccer video games. We’ll compare the first successful releases to modern-day blockbusters. If you enjoy this article, you may enjoy our work uncovering the details of development on the NBA 2K series, as well.
Soccer Games Throughout the Years
Through the years, plenty of gaming genres have featured soccer-themed games. For example, soccer fans can play soccer-themed slots from nz casino online. Even before video games, people were mimicking the game of soccer with unique tabletop games like foosball. The first soccer video games dropped in the late 70s. NASL Soccer dropped on the Intellivision in 1979. You can search YouTube to get a vague impression of what gameplay was like back then.
Soccer in the 70s – NASL Soccer
Nowadays, NASL Soccer may look utterly unplayable. Back then, though, the bland 2D graphics and stiff gameplay were innovations. Technically speaking, the game had a few extremely basic elements. It showed the score and time on the field, the players (in different colors to differentiate between the two teams), and the ball. The 1981 catalog entry for NASL Soccer listed corner kicks, goal kicks, and free kicks, actions which have been regular aspects of soccer games for the past few decades, as back-of-the-box features.
Innovation in the 80s
By the late 80s, soccer games were starting to look and feel better. In 1985, the company that would become Tecmo released Tehkan World Cup in arcades. World Cup used a trackball controller, which offered a unique way to control shot speed and direction. The gameplay camera was pulled out farther than most soccer games, which was ahead of its time.
In 1987, Match Day II introduced the kickometer, which controlled how hard you kicked the ball. MicroProse Soccer tried to recreate Tehkan World Cup’s shot control, but on joystick. Emlyn Hughes International Soccer changed the game visually. Players were now more defined; you could tell that each team was wearing a jersey and shorts. Characters had hair now.
EHIS played with the concept of momentum. More specifically, when a player turned, they slowed to a stop before turning, rather than instantly stop and change directions. Players could pass in 5 directions. Five!
The 90s – The Birthplace of Modern Soccer Games
Soccer games really started to take off in the 90s. The soccer games we know and play now all started here. Sensible Soccer dominated the soccer market in the early 90s. Developers Sensible Software had previously worked on the MicroProse Soccer series. Where MicroProse was slow, especially compared to other C64 games of the 80s, Sensible Soccer felt lightning fast. Sensible Soccer’s camera zoomed out to a birds-eye view. With a better view of the pitch, players could make more strategic decisions that included more foresight. Sensible Soccer also came to PC.
In 1993, Electronic Arts published FIFA International Soccer, the progenitor EA’s gargantuan FIFA series. Even this, the first EA FIFA game, became the best-selling Sega game of 1993. The first entry of the series used an isometric viewpoint, presenting a smaller, more dramatic slice of the action. You could choose one of 78 international teams and take place in the game’s Tournament Mode, which mimicked the UEFA European Championship format.
The biggest difference between early versions of FIFA and their modern counterparts, besides the improving graphics, is licensing. In their deal for FIFA International Soccer, EA was not allowed to use player names or likenesses, team logos, or stadiums. Slowly, EA was allowed to work more licensed teams into its game. FIFA Soccer 95 featured clubs from six leagues across Europe, including the Premier League. The following year, FIFA Soccer 96 included player names and licenses.
The Modern Era – FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer
This leads us to the modern soccer game. EA’s FIFA series continued to grow, improve graphically and perfect its physics engine. It and Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer series had cemented themselves as premier, simulation soccer games. These games were rivals in a simulation soccer market, and the battleground was over licensing. Graphics continued to improve but each major franchise had a commitment to realism, which began to focus on player and club names and likenesses.
So, what are the most recent changes in soccer games? FIFA has focused on its Hypermotion technology, in which full 11 on 11 matches are motion captured to try and make animations and movements as fluid as watching a real game. Recently, Pro Evolution Soccer has rebranded to eFootball and gone free-to-play, which could revolutionize the entire soccer game market. FIFA is reportedly already considering a similar move.
Modern soccer game iterations have felt stagnant. As a bit of levity, it’s fun to look back and see just how far the genre has come, from ambling stick figures to full-body motion capture. With graphical technology pushing its peak, it will be interesting to see how soccer game developers continue to push the genre without relying on making things simply look better.