The FIFA franchise is so popular that its release causes fans to call in sick, while supermarkets suddenly become busier than usual. Despite being around since 1994, the franchise is bigger than ever – but what lies at the heart of its enduring appeal?

Attention to detail

While the first edition of the franchise, FIFA International Soccer, is a far cry from what FIFA 18 is today, it was widely praised. In fact, Mean Machines Sega described the game as “greatest soccer game yet seen”, and Computer Gaming World called FIFA “a remarkably complete simulation of the sport”.

Even in its infancy, the game stood apart for its pinpoint passing, formations and animations. Before FIFA, football games looked more akin to a playground free-for-all than a genuine football match.

Fast-forward to 2018 and the game is still great looking and remains famous for its minute attention to detail. From player ratings to every ground in every major football league in the world, FIFA’s developers recreate it all with supreme accuracy. The stadium atmospheres are also electric. For true match-day experience, not even Pro Evolution Soccer can beat FIFA.

Influence on real football

The data the FIFA development team draw upon to create virtual versions of real players is very accurate. In fact, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi uses FIFA to research players he has never faced before in real life. Germany international Mats Hummels says that he plays as himself on FIFA to find new approaches to his game. Zlatan Ibrahimovic says the same thing.

Both FIFA and the real game continue to influence each other. EA Sports now embraces everything about the modern game, from big-money contracts to monumental sponsorship deals, of which the name of the game itself, licensed from football’s governing body, is a prime example.

In terms of the player profiles mentioned earlier in this piece, EA works with a 9000-strong team of data analysts to ensure the 30 traits of the 18,000 players in FIFA’s database are as accurate as possible. In the last week of September every year, professional footballers huddle around the screen to check their standings with FIFA.

Money and resources

Some still believe Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) beats FIFA in terms of gameplay. Yet FIFA sells 40 times more than PES and the main reason for this is EA’s financial clout. Whereas Konami (PES’s creators) have only been able to secure hodgepodge licensing deals, EA not only pays for the endorsement of FIFA, but also that of superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, in addition to many other famous names.

FIFA dealt a particularly devastating blow to PES when it poached the latter’s cover star, Messi, in 2012. In commercial terms, no other football game has been able to truly compete with FIFA’s onward march.