INTERVIEW: How EA will beat Call of Duty with FIFA

FIFA 14 was announced last week and despite several new enhancements and game play mechanics, it does share one key trait with its predecessor: it’s following a remarkably tough act.

Just as 13 had to tread in the footsteps of the record-smashing FIFA 12, FIFA 14 is coming off the heels of the best-selling entry in the franchise to date.

FIFA 13 sold 1m copies in its first week, was the best-selling PS3 game of 2013 and fell only 70,000 copies short of Call of Duty: Black Ops II in the battle to become the biggest franchise of last year.

Despite its success, EA remains confident that this year’s title can do better, with an eye on going one step further and beating Call of Duty for the 2013 number one spot.

We have a very strong feature set so I am very confident that we can do better in terms of sales and numbers than 13,” EA producer Sebastian Enrique told MCV.

We want to create the best football game but we don’t just want to be the best sports video game, we want to be the best video game period. All these numbers about what is franchise No.1 helps EA, so hopefully we can. It would be really rewarding for everyone working on the game.”

But EA’s big rival is not going to let FIFA have it all its own way. Having lived in the shadow of the FIFA series for the last few years, Konami is making changes to its Pro Evolution series. A new PES-dedicated London studio aims to push the series to the next level and the franchise?will be making use of the publisher’s new advanced FOX engine.

"We don’t want to just be the
best sports video game. We want to
be the best video game period."

Sebastien Enrique, EA

I respect Konami a lot and they produce a good game and a lot of people have played their games for ages,” adds Enrique.

Having competition is a good thing but we don’t consider competition to just be PES. Call of Duty is competition. People that are playing Call of Duty are not playing FIFA. We want them to play FIFA and we achieve that by creating the best possible game that we can create. That’s what we focus on. We are a team that is very aware of what we want to achieve. We want to exceed everyone’s expectations, exceed our own expectations and create the best game. Competition or not, these goals are not going to change for us.”

A vital part of bringing consumers the FIFA experience outside of directly playing the game is the EA Sports Football Club App. With 70,000 daily users, the studio sees it as an ideal place for fans to remain connected to the franchise on every available device and plaform and it’s a concept being pushed forward with?FIFA 14.

The concept of Football Club is the social experience or social network. It is where you can find a communion between those different platforms, between console and between handheld.

It is something we will continue to drive going forward, that connectivity and that social platform; because it is where we think football games should be played. Day in, day out, all day long, being able to connect with any device to your FIFA experience.”

New features in FIFA 14 include enhanced real ball physics and realistic attacking options.?But does the ever-increasing realism of the series mean FIFA?is now strictly for the hardcore?

"One of the important things
in video game development is
knowing when it’s good enough."

Sebastien Enrique, EA

On everything we do, we need to be careful to not make it extremely hard for new people or even for existing people. We need to be careful about not alienating what is the nature of what we want to build, which is an awesome football video game. You need to have fun with it; you don’t need to suffer it.

What is realism? If you want to create a perfect football simulation, a professional footballer sprinting going from a full stop to full speed takes around five seconds. If you put five seconds into the game, that would completely break the game. Would that make the game harder? No, it would just make it unplayable, not harder. It’s not directly proportional.

We prototype a lot of things and it’s a lot of testing but we need to be conscious that everything that we do in the game might destroy the balance of the game and alienate people. We have to satisfy a lot of consumers so we are extremely careful in what we do, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t take risks.”

The risks have paid off in the past and have become the reason behind FIFA’s success. But with FIFA titles in the past consistantly hitting the mark with both consumers and critics, how much more can be improved? And what motivates a studio often told by critics that it has created perfection.

One of the important things in development is knowing when it’s good enough. Our mindset is that everything can be improved,” concludes Enrique.

That mindset helps us create a better game year after year. If we were 100 per cent happy with something, we wouldn’t be in this business.”

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