FIFA 23 will finally allow players on different platforms to play together with crossplay support at launch. However, the decision to implement the feature purely in 1v1 modes feels like a kick in the teeth to the modes that need it most.
For too long, PlayStation, Xbox, and PC players have had to enjoy the beautiful game away from one another, while other online titles break down the barriers that used to exist between different consoles.
In FIFA 23, the last game in the series as we know it, the fans’ calls have been answered as those playing on separate platforms can take to the pitch together for the first time at launch – but there’s a pretty substantial catch.
Two is the magic number
When it launches this September, FIFA 23 will only support crossplay in 1v1 modes, such as Ultimate Team’s Division Rivals or the more traditional Online Seasons, possibly in an attempt to increase the pool of players during matchmaking while easing some of the strain on the servers.
While smoother matching is definitely a victory, limiting cross-platform play to modes where two players go head-to-head means that the likes of Co-Op seasons and, more importantly, Pro Clubs, won’t benefit from the leap in technology.
Throw in the fact that matches between console generations, i.e. PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC, and PS4 and Xbox One, are also unavailable, it starts to feel like FIFA 23’s crossplay is a tentative first step that doesn’t go far enough to truly make the feature the revelatory addition it could have been.
Missing the point
When you look at how crossplay has been implemented elsewhere, the emphasis is always on opening the door for friends to play together, even in groups divided by they’re preferred choice of hardware.
Although a larger pool of players is nice from a matchmaking point of view, the knowledge that you might have beaten an Xbox player with a Dualsense in your hand does very little to make a game more enjoyable. Crossplay has always been about the social side of gaming, not the competitive.
At this point in FIFA’s history, the days of playing against friends online have pretty much been and gone. Instead, we wait for those rare occasions when you can assemble the troops in the same room and you want to play them off the virtual park.
FIFA 23 crossplay seems to be catering to an audience that isn’t really there in 2022, while leaving the areas of the game that could thrive from the extra functionality to rot until it is fully implemented.
Support your local Pro Clubs
That brings us to Pro Clubs, which has often appeared to be the forgotten mode of the FIFA series. Although it doesn’t rake in the money of Ultimate Team, or scratch the sim itch of Career Mode, climbing the divisions with your friends in a club you built, and giving them the hairdryer treatment when they miss a sitter, is still one of the most enjoyable things you can do in the game.
But even as we head into FIFA 23, the only way to easily get everyone into the same club is by making sure you’re all on the same platform, something which is pretty rare nowadays.
Next-gen players are forced to download an entirely separate version of the game just to join up with teammates on older hardware, eating away at those precious GBs. Meanwhile, if you’re the one member of a group who dared to buy an Xbox when everyone else went PlayStation, there is still no way to get in on the Pro Clubs action without coughing up for a brand-new console.
This represents the biggest issue with FIFA 23 crossplay. A function that is supposed to tear down the walls between platforms and bring the player base together, is neglecting what is arguably FIFA’s main social mode.
On the surface, this may seem like a small gripe that only affects players in what will probably be FIFA 23’s third most popular mode. But the ability to join a club with anyone regardless of platform could have been what was needed to give Pro Clubs a much-needed boost in popularity, as those with different consoles to their friends could experience the mayhem for the very first time.
Despite a slew of updates in FIFA 22, Pro Clubs has always been a little underserved compared to the all-conquering Ultimate Team, which is surprising given its strong player base. These new additions ultimately weren’t enough to make up for years of playing through the same 10 divisions, and interest in the mode is at an all-time low heading into FIFA 23.
In the end, the decision not to incorporate crossplay at launch could be the final nail in the coffin that sees the community abandon Pro Clubs altogether.
Of course, there is every chance that once EA are happy with how FIFA 23 crossplay performs in 1v1 matches, the feature could be made universal later down the line. This is most likely just a test to ensure that the infrastructure is in place before they double down.
Let’s hope crossplay in FIFA 23 leads to a bright future for Pro Clubs and other cooperative modes as we head into the EA SPORTS FC era.