FIFA’s Popularity Explained

In 1993, a game was released that was the first offering from one of the biggest gaming franchises in history. At the time, there was a large amount of hype for FIFA International Soccer (FIFA 94) but nobody quite knew just how successful the FIFA games would be.

Fast forward 25 years, and FIFA is one of the biggest games of all time, with a staggering 260 million copies being sold in total. But why and how did it come to be so popular?

Football’s popularity

Firstly, it helps that it’s topic is football, one of the most popular sports on the planet. Therefore there is no shortage in potential players. If we look at EA’s UFC game, it is arguably as technical and well-made as FIFA, but it simply appeals to fewer people and is thus less successful.

People are truly obsessed with football, and so if they are also gamers, it makes sense logically that they would want to play a game based on the sport.

Establishing the brand

A second reason for its continued success is FIFA has thoroughly established itself as a huge brand. Its main competitor, Pro Evolution Soccer (PES), was initially considered in high regard alongside FIFA, with neither really ‘out-doing’ the other. That was until around 2005 when EA stepped it up for FIFA 06. Over half of the game’s code was re-written and a brand new engine was used. The overhaul was the beginning of the long and lucrative reign at the top for FIFA.

PES was left behind and has never really recovered, struggling to ingrain itself into the mainstream. It tends to be the more die-hard gamers who buy the Konami game, whereas FIFA appeals to a broader audience. FIFA 09 was also very significant as it was the first edition to include Ultimate Team.

FIFA Game Guest Post (3)

EA sports essentially holds the monopoly for the football gaming market on consoles (Football Manager offering stiff competition still on handheld devices and PC). As with any monopolistic markets, it is often detrimental to consumers as there is little need for the one company to improve their product or tailor to the consumer. Price also comes into play, as when there is only one option for gamer football fans to play a football-based game, EA – to a certain extent – could charge a lot more money and see no real negative impact on sales as there is no alternative game to play.

FIFA did have a few rocky moments along the way, with fans disappointed on a couple of occasions. FIFA 14 for instance, received more criticism than most other versions, with many people arguing that its new engine ‘Ignite’ favoured realism over gameplay. When EA have taken their foot off the gas, heavy criticism has put them back on the right track for the next game, ensuring PES never had a real opportunity to exploit and mount a significant challenge to FIFA’s reign.


PES arguably had the upper hand towards the beginning of the century, offering a more realistic and enjoyable game to play. Things changed with FIFA12 however, where a proper impact engine was implemented into the game which significantly enhanced realism. The franchise hasn’t looked back since, with FIFA 18 being the best version yet, but FIFA 19 is already looking like it could challenge its predecessor.

The ability to not only adapt, but adapt in such a way that the game doesn’t lose its identity and still offers realistic gameplay is very important. Call of Duty, a series even bigger than EA’s FIFA somewhat struggles to do this. They have relied on the principles of their old games to carry the franchise, with Modern Warfare and Infinite Warfare released alongside one another.


Everyone remembers choosing between North London Red and London FC on PES. The game can be edited and real names and players included, but that requires effort that most casual gamers aren’t willing to put in. The purpose of a game is to provide entertainment by creating a different reality. Most people enjoy gaming as it gives them a chance to be in a situation or scenario that is not possible in real life, and FIFA excellently creates that alternative reality.

In 2015 for example, EA secured the rights to host all 20 Premier League stadiums in their game. This was not only a cool concept for the fans of those lesser teams whose stadiums were not already in the game, but did wonders for the realism of the game.

FIFA Game Guest Post (2)

Photo by Jon Candy. License: CC BY-SA 2.0.

The additions of the live Sky Sports matchday features and official Premier League branding only enhanced the realism, and let players fully immerse themselves into the football gaming world.

Ultimate team

Similarly to how multiplayer thoroughly overtook the campaign mode in all Call of Duty games from MW1 onwards, many players chose to buy FIFA primarily for the Ultimate Team game mode. As mentioned before, it was instrumental to FIFA’s continued success since the turn of the decade. It is by far the most addictive part of the game, with the coin currency making for an interesting time. A sub-economy has literally been created with trading being at the forefront of Ultimate Team.

It is by far EA’s biggest earner, with in-game purchases outweighing the revenue of the game itself. The highly addictive gamemode was revolutionary, and seems to just keep getting better and more detailed every year. It gives fans a chance to create their ultimate fantasy team, pitting retired legends and players from all across the world that wouldn’t normally play together, in the same team.

FIFA is too good

In conclusion, not one aspect of the FIFA games alone is enough to make it highly successful. However, EA successfully take all the components of previous games that have done well, put them together in a perfect blend of gameplay and realism, and produce a fantastic game year in, year out.

With it being so established and now also consistent, it is very hard to see the franchise dying out anytime soon. The only thing that could potentially knock FIFA from its throne is a catastrophe on their end or something miraculous on PES’ side. Either way, if they keep producing, it seems like gamers will keep buying.

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