Why FIFA 23 needs to go free-to-play

Mbappe and RonaldoEA Sports / Strikerz

The debate surrounding the FIFA series going free-to-play has been raging on for years. But with other contenders joining the title race, there is no better time than FIFA 23 if EA SPORTS wants to keep their perch at the top of the table.

Slowly but surely, the video game industry is moving away from annualized releases. Rather than dropping a new game each and every year like we used to see with Assassins Creed, publishers are going for an ever-updating free-to-play model instead.

Sports games are way behind in this sense, with the likes of NBA and Madden still getting a $60 release year in year out. Chief among these titles stuck in the old ways is EA SPORTS’ FIFA series, which draws in ludicrous amounts of money from sales every term.

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But now that UFL, GOALS, and even their old rival PES are swooping in to offer football sims with no upfront cost, FIFA 22 should be the last time players pay for a FIFA.

FIFA 22 Trent Alexander Arnold passing ballEA Sports
Many FIFA players feel the yearly changes don’t warrant a full-priced release.

A free style of play

There have been arguments that FIFA should go to free-to-play for some time. The internet gets flooded with memes every 12 months mocking people splashing another wad of cash for a squad refresh and some gameplay tweaks.

The main reason EA got away with charging a premium price for a glorified update? The lack of real competition.

Now, with UFL and GOALS preparing to open their turnstiles free of charge, FIFA has a fight on its hands to keep its player base onside. Not only are these newcomers forgoing the entry price, but they’re also actively taking shots at EA’s practices with aggressive marketing.

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Phrases from UFL’s reveal trailer like, “we compete in matches where skill is always the deciding factor,” are clear swipes at the microtransactions that dominate FIFA Ultimate Team. Devs are tapping into growing frustrations with greedy monetization to present their game as the player-friendly alternative.

UFL gameplay with west ham player lobbing passUFL
UFL is looking to overtake FIFA with an emphasis on skill.

It’s easy to see why football fans would take the bait. After years of watching Ultimate Team revolve around loot boxes, a free title that still scratches that FUT itch seems like a no-brainer.

That’s exactly why now is the time to act, and make FIFA – or at least FIFA Ultimate Team – free for everyone. The longer players are expected to pay once these upcoming challengers start releasing, the greater the incentive to jump ship in search of a better deal.

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The biggest concern for EA is that FIFA will become the PUBG of the footballing world. The original battle royale created a formula that fans loved but failed to keep up as the likes of Fortnite and Apex Legends made the genre accessible for everyone.

That’s why the time is now. Not just to win back the favor of fans, but to stop the gaining momentum of their rivals dead in its tracks.

Cristiano Ronaldo collecting ball in UFLUFL
Even stars like Cristiano Ronaldo have signed on as UFL ambassadors

Counter attack

Love it or hate it, the on-the-pitch action found in the FIFA series clearly resonates with casual players and YouTubers alike. And although it may lose naming rights in the coming months, it’s hard for any other game to compete with the licensed teams, players, and stadiums that AAA publishers can afford.

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Off the pitch, the loop of opening packs in search of your favorite players and selling them on the market is as enticing now as it was in 2009. While the regular promos do more than enough to keep the hooks through the season.

Removing that initial cost, but retaining these core elements that make FUT the powerhouse it is, would be tough for any football fan to resist. Plus, splashing a little cash on packs or kits is far easier to stomach when you’ve enjoyed hours of gameplay for free.

All the tools are in place to blow the competition out of the water, it just takes one big move from EA to assert dominance over the football game market.

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FIFA 22 Ronaldo pack animationEA Sports
Nothing tops the feeling of a big pack in FIFA Ultimate Team

For the first time in a long time, it feels like FIFA is under real pressure to prove itself. Although the launch of eFootball didn’t go according to plan, it helped show the future of where sports games are heading.

As more players enter the game, it’s looking increasingly likely that free-to-play is the only way to go without losing a large chunk of the player base. Ultimate Team is tailor-made for seasonal updates, and it has a huge community hungry for its football fix.

F2P is the future of gaming, and it’s time for FIFA to stop putting it off and embrace it.

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