The video game franchise FIFA, published by EA Sports, is not something new or unknown. It’s become a part of a number of ‘lads-night-in’, often called the male equivalent of the SIMS franchise, which has been with us since 1993. Every year since then, a new installment is released containing new features, changes, and, most importantly, player cards. The latest continuation of the series, FIFA 23, sold 14.4 million copies across Europe alone.
Leaving game modes like ‘Career’ or ‘Kick Off’ behind, I want to talk about a new feature surrounding the franchise’s most popular game mode, Ultimate Team. Ultimate Team is the competitive mode of the game where players collect cards of individual footballers that they can then play with or sell for profit. Cards are obtainable through random packs.
However, FIFA is not FIFA anymore. Not because it has stopped launching football games, but due to a name change: it is now called EA Sports FC (a change that has reportedly happened due to an increased price of the licensing fee), and it is speculated to be released on 29th of September. What it will look like is still a matter of fantasy, but I believe that the game will not look that much different from the older titles, apart from some minor changes in gameplay and cosmetics.
But one feature is new: the Ultimate Team Academy.
In short, you get a player – let’s say a striker – with an overall rating of 72. Each player you obtain or buy has an overall ranking (max 99) and a score for individual skills like shooting, passing, defending, etc.. By completing challenges, they get upgraded and their overall ranking increases. Some challenges can be completed by in-game actions (i.e. score x amount of goals, make x amount of passes) and some will be a matter of buying them with coins or points (a currency obtainable for real money). I imagine that a lot of these challenges would be skippable for cash.
Personally, I have very mixed feelings about this new system – it is good that the improved cards will become unable to be sold, so there is no way to make profit on them. However, it very much depends on the amount and difficulty of the challenges to make the players good enough to be used. The game is not only played by professionals or high school students that have a lot of time on their hands. It is played by people with jobs, and people who want to enjoy a simple game that they have played ever since they were teenagers. If such upgrades require hours of grinding (or a skip through microtransactions), it only really rewards those who put their life and soul into it.
The closed beta is expected to start sometime around 10th August 2023.
Between then and the release in late September, we will know a lot more about the upcoming changes coming to the beloved football franchise.