In the lead up to the release of FIFA 21, EA put emphasis on how they’d developed career mode. Six notable improvements were being promoted: an interactive match sim, player development, match sharpness & active training, schedule planning, overhauled opposition AI, and new transfer options. For a number of years, career mode had always been criticised for being one-dimensional, but with these new changes, the developers at EA challenged players and put more control in their hands – allowing them to tailor minor details to their own desires, creating a unique experience.
Football Strategy Games
FIFA 21’s career mode has taken inspiration from the Football Manager game series. It incorporated elements of the sand-box and open-world dynamics which make Football Manager so popular. It is worth nothing how little competition there is in the football simulation market. Football Manager dominates it, practically it’s only viable and worthwhile option. FIFA 21’s career mode improvements are seen as an attempt to, if not dethrone it then at least, offer players a console alternative. And with Sport Interactive’s announcement that Football Manager 2021 will be available to play on XBOX, there are signs of the market reacting.
Players will also see in FIFA’s continually most popular mode FIFA Ultimate Team that what is customizable has increased. Stadium TIFOs, pyrotechnics, chants, themes, pitch-side trophies, and club’s nickname can all be added and personalised. Early in the game, players are able to earn packs which will have limited options to begin to make their club theirs. In a similar way to how bonuses for new players in online casinos work, it enables experimentation, to see what’s what, before settling on what’s best for them.
Sandbox, Open-World, and Battle Royale Games
The trend of giving players increasingly greater and integral control within a game has been growing within the gaming industry, becoming cornerstones of major and blooming titles like Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto (and Red Dead Redemption), and No Man’s Sky, to name just a few.
This is without getting to the battle royale games which have come to be major stakeholders in the market and pop culture: Fortnite leading the way with Call of Duty: Warzone, PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, and Apex Legends backing it up. While there is the argument that these titles don’t give the player the same level of “control,” aside from the purchasing of new and select skins for their avatars, which defines, for instance, Minecraft, what they do offer is, with massive maps and highly populated lobbies, a similar feeling of chaos and uniqueness. Battles and areas of interest can change drastically match-lobby-to-match-lobby.
Therefore, while player control is another means of enabling players to have varied experience in a game, battle royales achieve a similar feat with its chaos. Keeping players interested and keen for longer, which means the title will have a longer life.
When a Meta Develops
There is a caveat though. However much potential variety a game provides and seeks to install, players will learn what works and, therefore, works best, and share that information with each other. This quickly develops what is known as a “meta.” For instance, there was a “Bruen” – which refers to a powerful light machine gun which excelled at long range and midrange and was versatile in those engagements – meta in Call of Duty: Warzone during the title’s “season four.” Everyone who had unlocked it and its best attachments was using it.
Eventually, the developers responded in the “season five” update, making the gun weaker. A new cycle began. Shotguns – particularly the Origin-12 – became the meta. EA try to mitigate this by adding special variants of cards – new for FIFA 21 ‘Rulebreakers‘ for instance – if not alter how the game is played, but at least make other players viable with the game’s structure.
There will always be a fight for control, and it will always be about the response.