Recently Pro Evolution Soccer has been growing in popularity - critically at least – and no where was that more apparent than last year's PES 2016.
The game reviewed pretty well, with some critics saying it was better than rival football title, FIFA 16. But, by Konami's own admission, the title stumbled out of the gate; and this is something the firm is eager not to repeat with PES 2017.
For last year's title, Konami issued a patch that would update team kits and player rosters. But this was not rolled out until the end of October or, for some characters, November – months after its September release.
Last year, we had great momentum leading up to launch. But we made a big error with the Data Pack update,” global product and brand manager for PES Adam Bhatti says.
The volume was crazy, everyone heard about it. It took far too long to fix it. This year, our first communication about PES was that we'd have an update on Day One. That is one of those features that is so simple but adds so much to the authenticity and keeping the game up to date.”
Bhatti is bullish about this year's PES, though. The game is releasing two weeks ahead of rival FIFA and comes with a raft of gameplay changes.
These include the game's new first touch system, called ‘real touch'. This slows the game down and lets players think. Then there's the new goalkeepers, reworked from the ground up. And finally there's adaptive AI, which sees computer-controlled players change how they play to reflect the user's style.
Bhatti also sees the fact that EA has changed engines from Ignite to Frostbite as an opportunity for PES.
With PES 2017 launching two weeks before FIFA, the potential is huge, especially in territories where we are quite balanced like Italy and Spain,” he says.
As a developer, EA has a new engine, so it has a learning curve. What EA wants to do is launch the game when it's ready. We had that a few years ago when we moved to the Fox Engine. I feel like you are watching F1 racing and someone has pit stopped early. They'll come out of the pit stop just ahead because they took that chance. I feel we have done that”
As well as changing engine, FIFA is this year adding a story mode. This is a full narrative that tells the tale of a young footballer on his way up.
Pro Evolution Soccer, however, has more important parts to focus on... for now.
I'd love to be in that position where I'm super comfortable with everything in the game so I'm going
to go make something new,” Bhatti says.
It just shows a lot of confidence in what EA does. But we are all about the gameplay; that's our USP. That's why we announced a demo because we want people to play it straight away. We're that confident about the game.
When I see that from FIFA, I'm personally envious. We have a lot further to go.”
Another reason Bhatti is confident about PES 2017 is that Konami has managed to get its hands on some pretty sizeable team licences, such as Liverpool and Barcelona.
One thing that we need to do is change the perception,” Bhatti says.
We would love to go and get the Premier League, we would love to get Bundesliga. Even if we wanted to, we'd have to wait two or three years until they became available again. In the meantime, we're not sitting on our hands. People always talk to me about the weaknesses of PES. Three or four years ago, you could have listed four or five reasons why people didn't play PES. Now there's just one, and it's licences.
It's a question of: Do we just sit here and take the hit? Or do we do something about it? The team partnerships and licences is one way. It changes the perception; you're talking about the biggest teams in the world: Barcelona, Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund. And that's just Europe, we are going to announce more for Latin America. We are touring Argentina and Chile soon and we are going to announce some really big partnerships as well. For us, this is a way to move forward, making strides, changing the perception, reaching more people and making them aware that we don't offer leagues, we wished we did, but here's what are doing about it.”
"We went through a bad period between 2007 and 2013.
PES 2017 is our third really good game in a row."
Adam Bhatti, Konami
These teams will play a large role in Konami's push for Pro Evolution Soccer 2017.
We tend to look at different avenues than FIFA, we don't tend to compete on TV, we tend to compete online, whether it's videos, marketing on websites or whatever,” Bhatti explains.
It's always been slightly different. It's not quite as in your face as what EA does. Now that we have these clubs – Barcelona has 150m fans across their platforms – we have access to that on an almost weekly basis. We are doing a lot with that. You'll probably see a lot more of PES now throughout the season. We usually front end everything, but now I think this year you will see us for the full cycle.”
It's the quality of PES that Bhatti is most eager to talk about, with recent titles improving significantly.
PES went through a really bad period between 2007 and 2013,” he says. What we want is a strong consistent run of really good games. I feel PES 2017 is our third really good game in a row. The two-week head start is an opportunity to change perception, to give people a chance and reason to try PES with these new partnerships and we are hoping that more people give us a go. I strongly believe we have the best game. If I'm right, more people will play it and purchase it.”