November 25, 2020

FIFA 21 boycott: Why are some angry players threatening to snub EA Sports’ new game?

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It may be one of the best-selling video games in the world, but EA Sports’ football franchise falls short for some gamers

Boycotts can be an effective form of protest, serving to highlight complaints and occasionally bringing about change.

They are usually associated with social or political issues, but, interestingly, it’s an avenue that a small number fans of the FIFA franchise have talked about going down in response to issues they have with the game.

A boycott of FIFA 21 could be to PES 2021’s gain, with gamers potentially switching their football video game allegiance come autumn.

So why are some FIFA players threatening to boycott the new game?  Goal takes a look at the reasons.

Why are some fans threatening a FIFA 21 boycott?

There are a number of reasons for a proposed boycott of FIFA 21, with online discussion forums and social media housing sometimes heated debate about the popular EA Sports franchise.

Among the perceived issues are the sense that the game is not changing much year on year, at least not to the point where it validates the prices that are applied to the new titles.

Some gamers argue that, with few significant gameplay changes or new additions, some new editions of FIFA have simply become “glorified re-skins” with new kits and updated squads.

Of course, EA Sports would strongly dispute this and the company can certainly point to the inclusion of Volta football in FIFA 20 – the small-sided game mode – as evidence of their new work.

However, complaints persist among the community of gamers regarding things such as Career Mode, which many feel continues to fall short of expectations.

The fact that Konami released a PES 2021 ‘Season Update’ game at a much cheaper price than FIFA 21 – available for £24.99 as opposed to £59.99 – served to exacerbate the sense of outrage.

While promoting it as PES 2021, Konami specifically explained that the new game is an “updated edition of eFootball PES 2020” and the relatively low price is also a special 25th anniversary offer.

PES games have frequently been marketed at a lower price than FIFA games, but never to the point where they have been available for half the price.

Konami’s focus is firmly on optimising their PES title for the next generation of consoles – PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X – which goes some way towards explaining the cheaper price tag for the PS4 and Xbox One.

It should be noted that EA Sports is offering a free next generation upgrade to anyone who buys FIFA 21 for PS4 or Xbox One through their Dual Entitlement scheme.

Another contentious issue among FIFA gamers is the controversial pay-to-win element of Ultimate Team,  where players are essentially rewarded the more they spend on in-game purchases of packs.

EA Sports has clashed with authorities in Belgium over the perceived gambling dimension of so-called “loot boxes” in FUT, while the issue has been discussed by parliament in the United Kingdom.

For online FIFA gamers, server issues have been ongoing for a number of years, with lag time and outages causing disappointment among gamers.

How would a FIFA 21 boycott work?

A boycott of FIFA 21 could simply involve a refusal to purchase the new game when it is officially launched in autumn, thereby depriving EA Sports of sale revenue.

Some gamers have used platforms such as Reddit and even the FIFA forums on EA Sports’ official website to talk about the idea of boycotting FIFA titles.

Other methods include protest demonstrations, such as that which happened in 2019, when a group was organised and held a small gathering outside EA’s Bucharest headquarters.

Social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook have seen the deployment of hashtags such as ‘#BoycottFIFA21’  by disgruntled gamers voicing their opposition to the franchise. 

As well as everyday FIFA players, it has been suggested that it would be useful to bring notable YouTube personalities who play FIFA and professional esports gamers on board.

However, that seems fanciful given that those characters usually have an interest in enthusiastically promoting the new games when they come out.

It is not exactly clear how much traction a boycott of FIFA 21 would actually get and the previous attempt to boycott FIFA 20 doesn’t seem to have worked given that the game remained a best-seller in 2019.

While sustained pressure could work, the disorganised movement of scattered voices means that the individuals calling for a boycott online may ultimately find that they are fighting a losing battle.

Although Metacritic indicated that FIFA 20 scored the worst aggregated review rating of the 21st century for the annual release of the main FIFA franchise release, gameplay improvements for FIFA 21 could silence the doubters.