There are few things in gaming as divisive as NFTs.

They’re digital assets seen by many gamers as a cash cow, a way of exploiting gamers to the next level. In fact, one of the only things seemingly as exploitative in gaming is EA Sports football game FIFA and its Ultimate Team mode. It has a pay-to-win mechanic, which has been criticised for years now.

There was no surprise when EA Sports announced they were looking into NFTs last year, although they have since ditched the idea after strong backlash. They’ve got enough on their plate right now, looking at the upcoming rebrand of their flagship title and the growing threat from their rivals.

Konami has got eFootball on the market, a poor imitation of their PES franchise, but one that is improving. Strikerz Inc is developing Ultimate Football League, billed as a contender for the title of the best football game, and that’s expected to hit consoles in late 2022. There is another title lurking on the bench, one looking to bring digital assets into football video games in an acceptable way.

GOALS is an arcade-style football game more akin to the classic 16-bit titles, but it has a unique twist; the generated players in your squad will be digital assets. You’ll be able to level them up by playing (and winning) games and trade them to improve your squad. It’s looking to catch onto the FUT themes of squad building, but in a way that brings value to the gamers; your team won’t reset every year, and the assets you buy can inflate in value.

It’s an exciting concept and one that could succeed. The video game industry might be split of digital assets, but the football industry has been more welcoming. In many people’s eyes, the idea of NFTs, or ‘nothing for something’ is not attractive, but the same cannot be said for fan tokens, which have successfully invaded the football space. They’re a crypto-backed digital asset which fans of clubs purchase to increase their digital influence. They offer owners tangible real-world benefits which have kept them popular; for instance, owners of the Man City fan token chose their moment of the season, which was turned into a picture and mailed to every person who voted; that’s a real-world benefit from a digital asset. If it can work for supporting a football club, why not in the video game industry to build one?

There’s no doubt FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode has been a massive success; it’s earned EA Sports huge sums of money, but at a cost to the gamer; they’ve focused on one game mode and not the wider game or gameplay. A recent article by Joe explained how years of building on the same code have effectively left the game a broken shell of its former self and, therefore, surely ripe for picking off.

Can GOALS do that? There will be drawbacks; gamers like to play as their heroes, which it won’t allow them to do at present. Coming out at the same time as Strikerz, which is essentially a free-to-play version of Ultimate Team, could also be detrimental. However, some gamers feel football games have become too serious and too focused on realism, and they may be drawn to GOALS by its arcade-style gameplay and unique use of digital assets.

Ultimately, the success will come down to how the football gaming community takes digital assets. Fan tokens have proven football fans accept digital assets. The popular game Sorare uses NFTs and has a degree of popularity so who knows; perhaps GOALS can claim the title of the top football game with its unique concept and style.