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Is Free-to-Play The Future Of Sports Games?

Whether you agree with Konami’s decision to make eFootball free-to-play or not, you must realize sports title were coming to this point. Unfortunately, the on-going pandemic influenced Konami’s decision to release a shallow seasonal update for PES 2021. However, for PES 2022, Konami promised a massive jump to the Unreal engine that would change the game for the future. That change certainly came with the announcement of Konami’s football title going free-to-play.

The idea of major sports titles going to free-to-play stems from the issue’s that annual releases purpose. If there was anytime for simulation sports titles to adapt this method, it would be right now. Video games are more accessible after launch, and easily subjected to changes with updates, DLC’s, and expansions.

With the latest rumor that FIFA 23 could get the same treatment, it’s a good idea to weight the pros, cons, and ask; is Free-to-play sports games the future?

Why Change to Free-To-Play?

Electronic Arts has made millions from its Ultimate Team mode, this feature generates most of the profit from one title in a fiscal year. Going free-to-play would maximize EA’s profit by allowing more players to join without a $60 entry fee. If more people are playing Ultimate Team, then more players will be spent money on micro-transactions.

Sports titles traditionally come out every year, and tend to have minimal updates that leave fans wanting more. Companies like Electronic Arts focus more on Ultimate Team and leave other modes with shallow updates. This has been a major criticism of the FIFA and Madden series. However, moving to free-to-play would give developers more incentive to update their popular modes more frequently and effectively.

Positives of Free-To-Play

While going free-to-play would be massive change for simulation sports titles, there is many positives that can come from this change. With Konami’s eFootball, players can pay for modes like Become a Legend, Master League, and MyClub separately; As if they were paid DLC. If players just want to play Madden’s franchise mode, then all the player needs to purchase is that specific mode. This will lessen the cost of these titles and could possibly bring in new players.

Since players are directly paying for modes, I think developers will focus on modes individually. Instead of EA focusing on just Ultimate Team to bring in the money from one release. Developers will have a clear view of exactly what modes are popular by which modes are being purchased. With this data modes could update more frequently and could adapt a seasonal structure like Fortnite or Call of Duty: Warzone. Which means faster updates to your favorite modes, instead of yearly releases.

Negatives of Free-To-Play

Konami’s announcement did come with loads of criticism and concern. Using this free-to-play model has fans worried about cross-play and the quality of the game. To effectively use cross-play, the game needs to be developed to the lowest common denominator platform, which would be mobile. Unless players can only cross-play with the equivalent to their platform, i.e., PS5 to Xbox Series X.

A fear I have for sports games using this method is that microtransactions could get worse. To maximize profit, mode that don’t usually have in-game purchases will acquire them. Imagine playing FIFA’s Pro Clubs mode and having to purchase 10,000 FIFA Coins or 5.99 for the Fancy Flicks trait. This predatory practice would be typical EA, but this is just speculation and might not happen.

Verdict

In conclusion, eFootball is going to be the first sports title to go free-to-play. I’m excited to see what that means for Konami and how the game with change over time. If EA Sports FIFA makes this change and is successful, I expect many other EA sports titles to adopt this method.


What do you think about simulation sport titles going free-to-play? Let us know in the comment and keep it lock with SGO for more sports gaming news.

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