Bit of an interesting one this one. In the latest presentation at the E3 2020 conference (known as the place to showcase upcoming games and hardware) fans of the long running FIFA series were in for a surprise.
Normally revelations about upcoming titles in the popular football franchise include features as new stadiums, competition licenses, new gameplay or perhaps a new mode such as Volta – the ‘Street football’ version that came with FIFA 20 to much hurrah. However Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA Games, was proud to show off the latest vision of the game – disabled players.
Covid-19 has even affected the videogame world in the respect that finances at EA were hit badly. The drop in profits was so dramatic that EA have failed to purchase the branding and likeness rights to many of the top teams, stadia and players. Instead generic faces will be given to the players in question, as mentioned by Mr. Wilson at the presentation:
“We have been hurt badly by this pandemic, the same as everyone else. Normally we strive to be the most realistic soccer franchise, however these have not been normal times. The company had to make some very tough decisions in respect to our legacy, and we have decided that to continue in a solvent state is the priority. We could have continued with the licenses we used to have; the millions of dollars spent to keep player likenesses, but we felt that the world needs the FIFA series up and running, not heading to administration.”
The room seemed gloomy as he spoke, after all the franchise was known for its great similarity to the actual beautiful game. Noticing this change in mood the CEO took little time to try and whip up some excitement.
“I know you’re probably out there wondering how the game can recover from this setback. We’re aware of Pro Evolution Soccer and the strides that they have been taking, but let us be the first to take a moral standpoint on the sport we love. That is why Fifa 21 will be the first sporting videogame to feature those with disabilities. The game is loved by individuals from all walks of life, and we need to be the company that caters for everyone.”
The presentation then moved to a trailer of the newest game which clearly focuses on people with Downs Syndrome and a few other disabilities such as blindness. Some of the greatest and well known players in the game have had their faces replaced by digitally mapped faces of individuals with the syndrome. A battle for the ball between a Liverpool player with no arms and a Spurs player with a walking stick segues to a shot of an elderly manager with a white stick clearly celebrating a goal. A goalkeeper in a wheelchair saves a shot and falls to the floor. This is all playing whilst commentary can be heard from two men who clearly have Downs. Eventually the tagline of the game appears in bold letters at the end – ‘Football 4 All’. This transitions to a graphic of the new cover featuring two disabled players and fades to black. There is silence in the room.
I have attended these conferences before and usually all new games garner some kind of gasps or applause, yet this effort left everyone subdued. Andrew Wilson returned to his lectern to continue the rallying call.
“As you can see this is a call to arms. This is the game that will spearhead us towards what the public truly want – an inclusive release that doesn’t leave anyone behind. We call paralympians ‘Heroes’. We watch with pride as we see individuals overcome their adversities to become the greatest in their field. We felt it was time to reflect that in our games.”
The session ended with a Q&A segment where various news outlets asked variations of the same questions – what about the licences EA lost? What about the players that everyone loves no longer playable? What about stadia now being generic? Wilson stammered his way through the questions essentially coming to the same response each time – we lost money, this was the cheaper option as the individuals used cost less to license.
How do you feel about this? Are you pleased that the franchise is moving into an unknown area, or do you think this is another reaaon for people to move towards Pro Evolution Soccer?