When it comes to choosing a football game, players often have one of two choices: a FIFA-branded product or Pro Evolution Soccer. While both are more than capable in terms of gameplay, one offers the official licensing that comes along with the FIFA brand while the other offers fewer leagues but its own iterative twists on the sports game formula.
Historically Electronic Arts has dominated licensing of the FIFA franchise. Pro Evolution Soccer by Japanese developer and publisher Konami initially began as a local soccer game featuring Japanese teams and players. Eventually the series grew into a powerhouse in its own right, featuring football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo as the face of the franchise at one point. Perhaps in a sign of changing times, Cristiano Ronaldo is now the face of FIFA 18.
While not quite as indistinguishable as a Coke-versus-Pepsi debate, the FIFA games do offer distinct advantages over the Pro Evolution Series that cannot be readily ignored, especially by diehard soccer fans. Two major leagues, the Premier League and the German Bundesliga, are not present in Pro Evolution Soccer games, effectively eliminating them from a subsegment of football game consumers that may purchase it otherwise.
But that’s really the crux of the differences between the two franchises. For those sports games fans that are dead set on simulation and adherence to real-world data, FIFA is the best choice by far. Pro Evolution Soccer, on the other hand, does allow players to customize their experience a bit more than EA’s FIFA games.
FIFA, also known as FIFA Football and FIFA Soccer, is an annually released football simulator from Electronic Arts that started in 1993 and has remained one of the best-selling sports video games to date.
Released in most every major market in the world and available in over 18 languages, FIFA has also spawned a slew of smartphone apps and attendant video games in addition to its core offering. By 2010 FIFA was declared the best-selling sports franchise in the world while in 2012 the franchise became the fastest-selling sports title of all time when it sold 3.2 million copies in its first week, generating $USD 186 million in revenue for Electronic Arts.
One downside EA faces when developing FIFA on an iterative basis is that its dedicated base of players often becomes accustomed to the gameplay featured in the previous year’s edition, making change difficult and slow. But this also puts the series in the line of sight for critics who bemoan its glacial pace of change and innovation. Yet, when EA does do something bold there tends to a backlash against it that often outweighs the advantages of taking a risk in the first place.
Even with that disadvantage, FIFA retains the top spot due to its sheer quality and the size of its community. FIFA players can bet on a ready and waiting group of challengers every time they log on and can easily spend hours trolling the forums for the game online. FIFA’s large community, coupled with its seasonal nature, insure that the game’s release is treated as an event in the industry.
Pro Evolution Soccer, on the other hand, is more like a sly upstart than the established FIFA brand. Since its first release in 2001, Pro Evolution Soccer, also known as World Soccer: Winning Eleven or just Winning Eleven, also maintains a huge following even though it lacks all of the leagues and players featured in an EA FIFA game.
One neat work around that players have implemented is by adding in real-world players through patches that can be downloaded from the Internet. These patches create the teams and their rosters as they currently stand along with all of the leagues that are missing in the game. It is this high level of customization that makes Pro Evolution Soccer such a beloved game by fans. Since its initial release the series has sold over 80 million copies, making it one of the best-selling game series of all time as well.
So what is a sports gamer to do when faced with the choice between FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer? Well, the question as to what game you should pick really boils down to what kind of video gamer you are. Do you enjoy officially licensed products? Are you looking for a particular team or player? If you say yes to either of those questions, then there is little doubt that FIFA is your franchise. Further, do you enjoy apps on your smartphone? Do you own a bunch of other gear? Are you a collector of football memorabilia in general? Then, again, FIFA is your choice.
Where does this leave Pro Evolution Soccer? Pro Evolution Soccer stands apart from FIFA in its willingness to accept change and customization. In an era of ever increasing options in games, Pro Evolution Soccer seems to come from a different world when compared to FIFA, making that series look somewhat staid and restricted.
Of course, the lack of many leagues and players will be a turn off for a lot of gamers, and that is understandable, but the option to build your own makes more sense now in the era of Minecraft and battle royale games than ever before. While FIFA does offer robust simulation modes, again it is not quite as open as Pro Evolution soccer feels.
And then there is the question of gameplay innovation. A quick glance at the FIFA series notes incremental change while Pro Evolution Soccer sometimes undergoes radical changes in a short amount of time. For players that like to shake things up, Pro Evolution Soccer keeps you on your toes. We don’t really see that changing anytime in the near future, especially given the general slant towards customization and idiosyncratic experiences.
So which series do we recommend?
To be safe, and that is the province of recommendations, we wholeheartedly recommend the FIFA series for its tried-and-true format and access to the world’s players and leagues. It is difficult to challenge FIFA’s hold on what many fans consider to be the world of football as they understand it.