OPINION: The FIFA success story

The triumph of FIFA 12 tells us a number of things about how the games market has changed in 2011.

This year’s game made over a third more revenue than last year’s instalment in its launch week. Chart-Track data has that down to a higher RRP and focus on 360 and PS3 – with the importance of Nintendo formats diminishing and PC following them.

But also, mainstream retailers showed remarkable restraint on pricing, no doubt keen to secure higher revenues for themselves.The usual free-for-all on FIFA pricing was nowhere to be foundlast week.

Just a year or two ago, FIFA was the game for crazy pricing. Itwas the carrot to tempt people in to stores, on the hope they willdo their weekly shop or visit a retailer they don’t usually go to.

Today, retailers are demanding loyalty: you can buy FIFA forunder 30, but only if you buy a trolley-load of fruit, bread andbeer to go with it. Posters at specialists saying the game is ‘only’ 44.99 are the rule, no longer the exception.

Meanwhile, the digital element to FIFA is more prominentthan ever this year.

Not only is FIFA Ultimate Team a huge part of the experience this year, which encourages players to spend extra down the line, the game itself features lots of downloads and digital creation aspects for PC that deepen the experience. And the smartphone version of this year’s title – which costs 4.99 on iOS – was even top of the app store over the weekend.

FIFA’s digital proposition is attractive, but more complicated – and in some cases nothing to do with traditional games retail.

You’d think a higher price or a more prominent digital element would have drawn consumers away from traditional retail – and yet gamers were out in droves to pick the game up this week.

With over 1m sold in a matter of days, we don’t yet know if that means there are more fans out there or whether the existing fans are just buying it earlier.But either way, EA and retail willbe delighted with this result, which speaks volumes about the rude health of the market.

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