Pc game

EA’s FIFA wasn’t just a PC game. He gave birth to a generation of football fans in India

On the opposite sides of the central circle, support Thierry Henry and Ruud van Nistelrooy, awaiting instructions; “press ‘s’ to pass, to kick off”. It’s 2002 inside the computer screen, but the calendar says 2004. It’s Arsenal versus Manchester United. His ‘soccer heritage‘. Two English Premier League teams at the top of their game. But the game barely lasts 5 minutes. It’s a demo after all. The free CD that comes with an iBall keyboard and mouse set can’t hold that much.

EA Sports and FIFA spread across the $20 billion soccer game franchise won’t mean much to many. But for at least 150 million people who grew up believing that ‘this‘was indeed,’in the game‘, know why it is described as the ‘end of an era‘. It means much more to a generation of football fans in India, who, before 2001, were bred on a steady diet of Bhajji’s off-spins and Sachin’s Straight Drives. It was the FIFA games franchise that brought international club football, particularly the Premier League and La Liga, the Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo debate, to the country.

Remember the groups of urban Millennials and Gen Z teenagers, who, in the absence of their parents, spent countless hours in front of the computer screen, playing custom tournaments? or, if you could afford it or had more than generous tutors, played Ultimate Team? Stacks and stacks of hundred rupee notes disappear within hours in “game centres” or the opening of TOTY (Team Of The Year) packs. FIFA games were a cultural phenomenon for teenagers in the 2000s who just couldn’t get enough.

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The rise of club football fueled by FIFA

While ESPN started broadcasting Premier League matches in 2001, it was around 2004-05 that the country saw a surge in the game’s popularity. But no points for guessing what that was. India was a witness a “decisive era in the history of the Indian PC market” between 2003 and 2006, when the number of desktop computers more than doubled, from 9.5 million to 22 million. Also, don’t forget the birth of the glorious Pirate Bay in 2003.

Along with computers, the Internet, videos and games have arrived, all new modes of entertainment. the desi gaming phenomenon coupled with piracy has also fueled a booming business of the lawaalahs, which, instead of selling us vegetables and fruits, offered cheap virus-packed movie CDs, song albums and, of course, games. GTA (Grand Theft Auto), NFS (Need For Speed) and FIFA were the must-haves, catering to the teenage need for violence, innuendo, high-speed sports cars and sporty tribalism.

But put FIFAnomics aside for a second. The fact that you could play as the stars of world football – going from Ronaldinho to Kaka, to Wayne Rooney and Xavi – in one team, virtually emulating the Galácticos, without consequences, had unprecedented appeal. Add to that success on the pitch and a 12 year fight in game between Messi and Ronaldo for the highest FIFA ratings. More than a game, FIFA represented a culture around football. Something beyond the once-a-week 90-minute game, especially when you were behind the television, millions of miles away from the roaring arenas. It has branded itself as a ‘relaxation space’ – an experience you can immerse yourself in to escape stress and bond with others. Who the late Gen Z and Gen Alpha might recognize as popular British YouTube group ‘The Sidemen’ – KSI, Miniminter, Zerkaa, TBJZL, Behzinga, Vikkstar123 and W2S – owe their careers to FIFA.

Almost two decades later, it’s no surprise why the Premier League, for the first time since the competition began 30 years ago, reported generating more revenue foreign broadcasters than domestic broadcasters. A staggering $7.2 billion. To put the numbers in perspective, that’s $600 million more than the United Nations requirement $6.6 billion to avert starvation for 42 million people in 43 countries.

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It’s all about the money

Perhaps it would be an overstatement to say that we have lost yet another valuable cultural artifact to the desire for money, or will it? But it’s certainly not because FIFA had the best interests of the fans at heart. FIFA President Gianni Infantino may have says he wants to give football players and fans “the only real authentic game”, but little does it know that even at its best, previous titles have been, to put it mildly, deeply disappointing.

In a post-Super League world, where UEFA changed its format to accommodate more teams, created the “conference league” and FIFA looked the other way human rights violations in Qatar to host the World Cup this year, it seems that footballing institutions and cultures lately have been desperately trying to claw back money wherever they can find it.

It was the same with EA: the priorities of FIFA games have changed from the popular offline management mode to online micro transactions– which shows where the American gaming giant is falling short. The fact that the game has stagnated in many ways, except for improved graphics with the Unreal Engine and the introduction of The Journey mode, is a complaint from many FIFA. fans have been decrying for years.

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Down the road from PSE?

In the grand scheme of things, EA Sports FC, as the new game is dubbed, will be no different from previous games. Since the company still retains player and team licenses – thank goodness –there will not be PM Black White (Juventus) or Male Blue (Manchester City). But for the new FIFA title, it might as well be a disaster. In all likelihood it will drop at Konami’eFootball‘ (formerly Pro Evolution Soccer or PES) – a cult classic that self-destruct in order to reinvent itself.

“The word ‘classic’ is overused” wrote Mean Machines Sega magazine when FIFA was released in 1993, “but anyone who plays Fifa Soccer has to admit it’s football.” Thirty years later, as we bid farewell to our favorite football game that inspired a generation of Indians to watch football, we also remember the times when it helped us disconnect and unwind.

For Manchester United fans like me, and maybe Arsenal fans too, FIFA helps – even to this day it feels like the glory days of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger will never end. And the game starts.

Views are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)