I’m not sure if there’s a single person on this Earth who thinks there should be more FIFA games. The series has become a seemingly irreversible constant in this industry and continues to sell in stratospheric numbers, and whether you love it or hate it, a football fan or not, pretty much everyone has played a FIFA game. So it does seem a little odd, on first inspection, to hear that there’s a free-to-play version of the game currently in beta on PC. FIFA World may not be the equivalent of its big brother, but that’s precisely why it’s much more interesting. Football games have, for many years now, followed the same ritualistic structure, but FIFA World represents an intriguing step in a new direction.
The game has been in beta for almost a year now and is slowly but surely heading towards a proper release, but even now it’s clear to see that this is an idea with legs. Graphically, FIFA World doesn’t even come close to the quality of the mainstream series, even the gameplay is more basic than in the core games. Yet these drawbacks have been carefully considered: the game is intended to be played on even fairly rudimentary hardware, while the gameplay is supposed to be more accessible than in the normal FIFA games. Clearly, EA is aiming for those who wouldn’t typically play a football game on console - either because they don’t own one or because they’re not quite as game-focused as the rest of us.
While these ‘drawbacks’ are still currently within the beta, EA announced at Gamescom that the game will soon have a new, more advanced, engine. It’s likely that this will be the FIFA 14 Impact engine, thereby putting FIFA World only a year behind its older brother - but still with the improved accessibility in tow. This constantly improving aspect of FIFA World is what makes it so interesting. While the main series relies on yearly full-game updates to remain fresh and, lest we forget, to keep the cash rolling, this game will be updated on the fly with new team and player info as well as overall game improvements.
In effect, this is FIFA as a service, and it looks almost MMO-like in its overall presentation. For instance, much of the game relies on an internet connection to formulate online leagues and player vs player matches. Plus, if you’re familiar with the Ultimate Team system then you’ll be right at home in FIFA World. EA’s football trading card game forms the backbone of this free-to-play offering - and by backbone, I mean money. EA is hoping that you’ll be buying plenty of card packs in an effort to improve your Ultimate Team, with which you can play online and single player games.
So yes, single player elements do exist in FIFA World and this is largely due to player feedback. A tournament mode was created specifically due to player response, another sign of the ‘constantly updating’ concept behind the game. As well as the Ultimate Team packs, you’ll also have to buy match credits to play the online games - either that or wait a day or so for your credits to replenish over time. What’s more, you can speed up the credit regeneration process by winning your games. It’s a system heavily influenced by mobile game monetization, but it’s difficult to see it being a particularly effective system on PC. The team behind FIFA World encouraged the idea that game works well as a ‘break’ game in between work, but I can’t help but feel as though it brings the payment aspect of this free-to-play too close to home.
Whether you think that monetization scheme sounds like a cash-grab or not will ultimately come down to personal preference, and will probably also decide whether you like FIFA World or not. In many ways, it’s a tad depressing to see that FIFA’s closest competition at the moment is simply another FIFA game, but after chatting with the developers it’s clear that there’s a bit of a rivalry going on. FIFA World may not be the conventional football experience that we’ve become accustomed to, but it could very well be a sign of things to come. Failing that, it could prove to be a profitable side-track for EA and a neat new experience for both series fans and new players alike.