Business Technology

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Fifa 14: the brains behind the $6bn franchise

Ben Riley Smith

IT is the Canadian city of Vancouver that houses the brains behind Fifa 14, the latest version of EA Sport's dominant football game franchise.

Since its launch in 1993 the Fifa series has earned the company $6bn. Fifa 13 sold 4.5 million copies in its first five days alone, becoming the biggest sports game launch in history.

At midnight today, when Fifa 14 goes on sale around the world, EA Sports hope to do it again.

Fifa's base may be in Canada but the team that created the game is global. The developers who have spent the last year working out how to take Fifa's gameplay to the next level hail from 18 different countries, all under the watchful eye of a Brit.

David Rutter is executive producer of Fifa 14 and, thanks to his roots, a Leicester City and Hitchin fan. Since taking over the top job after working on the game for years in other role his foscus has been incremental developments.

Fans credit Fifa's prolonged success in the face of scores of other rivals to a development mentality that ignores the bells and whistles and aims for consistent improvements to the gameplay.

This year's game includes better shooting – players can adjust their angle in the run up to a shot – and more intuitive off-the-ball runs by teammates. There is also a 'protect the ball' action that makes a player block his opponent with an outstretched arm - a welcome addition for fans of timewasting.

Santiago Jaramillo, a producer on FIFA 14, explained the mentality of the development team in a recent interview with Polygon magazine.

"I think the main thing that keeps us ahead of the curve is focusing on the right thing. So, staying away from gimmicky features that sound marketable, are costly and at the end of the day, our end fans — it's not what they want," he said.

"What people want more than anything is a solid, good fabric of gameplay experience that focuses on the fundamentals."

That approach seems to have worked. Pro Evolution Soccer, Fifa's closest rival was seen by many as being toe-to-toe in the early 2000s, has failed to keep pace in recent years according to Telegraph reviewer Nathan Ditum.

Developing the game alongside real professional footballers has always been a part of achieving the jump in quality that is needed to justify why fans should shed out another £39.99 each year.

Back in 1993 when Fifa International Soccer was being developed it was balding England midfielder David Platt who gave his input, spending hours in the office when he was sidelined with an ankle injury.

Today the development team have a more unlikely source of inspiration: Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

Players from the club have formed an integral part of the finetuning of this year's game, both by playing on the full-sized pitch at EA Sports' offices and being strapped up to monitors in on-site studios.

It's not clear which players specifically have been lent Fifa their services, but the Whitecaps count Scotland's Kenny Miller and American international Jay DeMerit in their squad.

Asked what the key to the game's enduring success was, one EA Sports insider said: "It is all about making a better, more realistic football game without taking the fan out of it."

With fans so desperate to get their hands on Fifa 14 they'll be queuing round the block come midnight tonight, chances are EA Sports have done exactly that again this year.

Online Editors

Promoted Links

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Promoted Links

Also in Business