Is eFootball 2022 a Disaster or a Breakthrough?
Konami’s eFootball 2022 is an interesting answer to FIFA. Unfortunately, it fell totally flat on its face in a disastrous example of graphics-gone-wrong and limited features.
eFootball 2022’s story goes back a little further, though. The sports game scene as a whole hasn’t been all that competitive in recent years. With the likes of NBA, NHL, and Madden taking the top spots for other sports, the only football sims of major note have been PES and FIFA for quite some time now.
Pro Evolution Soccer (otherwise known as PES) did have a winning streak before FIFA put out its first Ultimate Team game, but then sadly fell behind. FIFA is now a giant because it’s able to compete with similarly wide-scale IPs.
Now Konami has scrapped PES as we knew it and replaced it with eFootball. If you haven’t played eFootball 2022 yet, then you may be wondering what the fuss is – surely it’s just a name change?
When it was announced that eFootball was coming in September 2021 it undoubtedly caused a tremble for the team at FIFA. eFootball was going to be the next huge, free, online sports sim. The idea was, in short, that eFootball would become the sports version of Fortnite, and be a hugely multiplayer, online-based, game of the decade. Sadly, that wasn’t what Konami delivered come release day.
The eFootball that Konami Promised
A free-to-play soccer sim reboot of Pro Evolution Soccer doesn’t sound so bad. A continuously updated, finely tuned alternative to FIFA sounds even better. In their press release announcement, Konami describes the game plainly, saying that it will be a “taste of what to expect from the new free-to-play football simulation platform, before the first major update goes live, at no cost, this Autumn .”
Features to be included were offline matches, that involved “play against the AI or a friend offline with nine fully authentic clubs to choose from” as well as the choice between “six stadiums: Camp Nou, Old Trafford, Allianz Stadium, Emirates Stadium, Allianz Arena, eFootball Stadium”.
Online events would use “cross-generation matchmaking with weekly online events using pre-set teams, providing rewards such as GP”.
Some of the other eye-catching features included motion matching technology during development, which should allow for physical motions of things like the speed of the ball to create more dynamic character reactions.
Cross-platform gaming also featured as a selling point, with eFootball promised on Xbox, PlayStation, Steam, Android, iOS, and eventually the Nintendo Switch. This is where the comparisons to Fortnite can begin.
It all sounded so promising!
The digital-only, totally free eFootball that Konami described appeared to be the answer to every FIFA hater’s prayers. eFootball was developed in Unreal Engine, ditching the Fox Engine used for previous PES games, which looked like a firm indicator that this game was going to include a significant bump in the graphics department.
Along with the excitement and build-up, it’s important to note that Konami was totally honest about the state of the game that was coming out in September. It would essentially be a playable pre-alpha just to test the waters and give players a stronger idea of what was to come.
After its initial release, the developers announced a host of major updates on the horizon that formed a launch roadmap of sorts. The initial launch was September 2021, followed by a significant update coming in late Autumn 2021 that will give players “online leagues, a team-building mode, cross-platform matches between console and PC and a match pass system similar to a season pass”.
Full cross-play support should launch in Winter 2021, promising an exciting eSports tournament along with it.
Of course, we can’t criticise what hasn’t been released yet and I’m feeling confident Konami may make a recovery on a No Man’s Sky scale with its next planned update. Still, it’s only fair to judge the game as it stands in comparison to how it was marketed.
Here’s What Went Wrong for eFootball’s Launch
Konami’s first mistake, if you can call it that, was perhaps jumping the gun. Since the game was planned as a placeholder for the meatier content to be dropped in the first Autumn update, perhaps they should have delayed public access to the game until then.
On release, players were annoyed by dead-looking audiences, janky character animation, and a disappointing selection of features. In fact, eFootball 2022 has achieved the rank of being Steam’s worst-rated game of all time.
One of the funniest complaints has been Konami’s disastrous depictions of well-loved players, like Ronaldo and Messi. Amongst other problems was an overall lack of polish, with plenty of bugs (like players sometimes turning into an empty, floating suit) and a distinct lack of game modes.
It seems the biggest problem this game faced was being created in the shadow of PES, which was hardly a stellar title in the first place. Yes, the Pro Evolution Soccer 6 game was one of the better releases, but that is in part because FIFA didn’t release its Ultimate Team until a few years afterwards.
PES, rather disappointingly, kept going as a kind of second-rate sim, while FIFA went on to become the football sensation that it is. Admittedly, FIFA has had its fair share of issues lately, with fans feeling salty about the AAA price tag for basically the same game every year. The loot box-style mechanics of EA haven’t gone down well lately either.
Because of these real-world factors, the announcement of a new PES hybrid game perhaps put eFootball as a hopeful underdog contender. Fans were rightfully excited to see what this new style of free-to-play, crossplay soccer sim could offer. I think this set expectations unfairly high for a game that the developers themselves described as ‘just a taster’ of the full experience they were building.
This initial excitement for PES fans following the announcement was doubled when the first gameplay trailer for eFootball 2022 came two months before launch. It talked of ‘sharp kicks’ and other features like a dribbling mini-game. Konami talked about the ‘dizzying heights of next-gen entertainment’, but couldn’t back these claims up with in-game footage.
A Twitter thread after Gamescom later detailed more of the new, incredible features players would enjoy, but again, Konami didn’t release much along the lines of gameplay or screenshots.
Altogether, this sequence of events created a toxic mixture of unrealistic expectations and under-delivery.
The momentum that their release day built up was lost in the buggy first few days after eFootball’s launch. Because of the widespread, awful reviews of their tester version of the game, it seems Konami has little chance of their work being appreciated even if the first update is phenomenal.
But is all hope lost for the future of eFootball?
Why eFootball Could Still Succeed
As it stands, before eFootball 2022 has received its first major overhaul, there is a noticeable lack of competition in the sports sims category. Everyone knows the big PC and console games, NBA, MLB, FIFA, but they don’t have any real competitors in their respective sport.
When it comes to mobile sports games, however, it’s a different story. The market is littered with either arcade-style or micro-transaction based management games on mobile. At first glance, this is a miserable outlook for sports fans. The same titles continue to dominate the larger platforms and smaller-scale sports games litter the iOS and Android stores.
There appears to be a distinct lack of alternatives and high-quality experiences in the genre, particularly when it comes to soccer sims. This creates a unique hole in the market that eFootball might be able to fill.
If the team at Konami can build a good-quality free-to-play football simulation that delivers on all of the counts they’ve promised it will, then eFootball can be the best of both worlds. It could reach the level of online play popularity that the likes of Fortnite and Warzone enjoy, giving FIFA players a real decision to make for the first time in many years.
Simultaneously, eFootball could become a major mobile game, reaching that audience pool seamlessly too. There are so few alternatives that can offer everything that, say, FIFA can. Players don’t really have anywhere else to go – unless they feel like a dry session of Football Manager.
By being so incredibly accessible across every platform imaginable, eFootball can give sports game players everything the big names do – and it will do it for free on any platform they like.
While the larger part of the internet has it in for eFootball 2022 with scathing reviews, I think it’s only the beginning for Konami. Let’s wait for the planned updates, manage our expectations, and see how EA responds in time. I suspect eFootball could be the Fortnite of football before too long.