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Why Nintendo needs EA’s sports titles



With the imminent release of FIFA 17, both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners have been granted the opportunity to play its highly anticipated demo. The download figures aren’t yet available to the public, but consumer history suggests huge numbers, especially for a sports game with FIFA in the title. In its first month of release, FIFA 16 sold at least 1-million physical copies (excluding digital sales), an impressive achievement, but not one that would surprise publishing giant EA. FIFA is just one of the many sports adaptations for home consoles, and, suffice to say, it’s never alone in the annual videogame charts. This is where Nintendo need to pay attention.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Nintendo’s focus on the sports market was severely diminished by the latter half of the Wii U’s lifecycle. It would be misinformed to suggest a lack of sports titles was the primary reason for the Wii U’s colossal sales failure, but it’s a huge market – and an invaluable business relationship with EA – that Nintendo has compromised, and it’s something they’re going to need to re-establish if they want to gain a foothold in the home console market. As of this moment, Nintendo has failed to produce their own version of FIFA 16 for any of their hardware in 2016, and considering their mass appeal this is simply unacceptable.


Sports titles like Madden NFL 17 beat both the hotly- anticipated debut of No Man’s Sky and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided making it the top-selling game in August for North America. Sports games achieve a rare feat in modern playing by including couch co-op and online play in the overall package. In an industry that continues to innovate with its inspired approach towards advanced social features, Nintendo has taken a backseat while the competition runs circles around them. Removing the sports games from its minuscule library, and its current console’s woeful online infrastructure prevent it from capitalising on capturing the market it so desperately needs.

The NX must serve as a platform that can support the online communities like EA’s very own Ultimate Team. Andrew Wilson’s idea to implement Ultimate Team into EA’s core football franchise provided the fledgling franchise with the shot in the arm it needed to take back its football crown. By combining player trading cards and FIFA’s (already) online-enabled matchmaking system, EA had created an ecosystem whereby players could craft their own team by purchasing digital trading cards and pitting themselves against their friend’s best team.


This popular feature encapsulates everything that Nintendo missed out on by not learning from their competitors: personalization and customisation, online competition, justified micro-transactions, complete control, up-to-date rosters, and teams. EA’s investment for this ambitious project has certainly paid off. Since its inception in 2009 with its player attach rate at a modest 1-million players, Ultimate team has nearly doubled this with each passing year, and in 2013 11.2-million players traded and sought their most prized cards. It’s a popular way to play, and it’s only getting bigger. Meanwhile, games like Madden NFL and NBA Live have gone on to include their own version of Ultimate Team.

Twitch streaming, amongst other videogame streaming services, has paved the way for gamers to share their favourite gaming moments; amazing goals and touchdowns invite comments from admiring viewers, while dirty fouls that go unnoticed provide the hilarity for somebody who’s been in similar situations. Sports titles lend themselves to social sharing features and that interactivity bolsters annual sports titles sales. It’s not enough to score that last-minute goal in front of your local friend, bragging rights are truly earned by sharing it with the millions online.

Contemporary audiences demand realism and updated teams to whet their intertextual appetites. Constantly updated features like match-day ensure every player, and their exclusive stats reflect what is currently happening on the pitch. At the same time, audiences demand the right to customise and personalise their own team, and it’s this feeling of absolute control that keeps the sports fans coming back every year. It’s an audience that exponentially grows and it’s not to be overlooked, especially by Nintendo.

If Nintendo can mend bridges with EA and the other third-party developers/publishers that would be a start. The NX cannot go toe-to-toe with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One’s iterations of annualised sports titles, instead, it will need to invigorate the sports genre with completely news ways to play as their favourite sports stars. What this entails is anybody’s guess, but what’s important is that they understand their mistakes and learn from the foundations laid by the current console heavyweights. Nintendo needs to reclaim the top spot from their contemporaries, but this will prove more difficult without EA and what they bring to the table.

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