Why PES is struggling to rival FIFA despite its gameplay advantages

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Pes cristiano ronaldo cr7 konami

Adding big names to the game’s database doesn’t seem to be enough for PES these days. (Image credit: Konami)

The rivalry between KONAMI’s Pro Evolution Soccer and Electronic Arts’ FIFA series has been going on for what seems like forever. But there’s only ever been one clear winner – FIFA. What is preventing the little brother to truly challenge for the throne? Let’s take a look.

The whole reason PES ever posed a threat to EA’s behemoth of a series, is gameplay. For over a decade players have applauded KONAMI’s child for being a true football simulator instead of the unrealistic, sometimes over the top practices found in FIFA matches. So if the core, most important part of a game – its gameplay, is deemed superior almost unanimously by players, how could FIFA still be the far more popular series?

Until 2009 there was only one answer to this question. Now, there are a couple. The old and sadly still valid argument that shuts PES down is the licenses. While vastly improved when compared to 12 years ago, the PES database simply cannot compare with FIFA’s near-monopoly on player, team and league licenses.

It’s weird to not have Juventus in FIFA 20 but that’s a minor concern when PES still has one or two licensed teams within some of the top European leagues. It didn’t help PES 2020’s cause that it was so far from being optimized upon release that even the existing database was at times clearly wrong.

The second joker in EA’s sleeve is the Ultimate Team mode. Born in 2009, this online experience has gradually become the most sought-after feature of FIFA. Pro Evolution Soccer missed the boat on countering FUT on time and losing the battle for online users is ritual suicide in the current gamer meta.

People can trash talk FUT all they want, call it a shameless gambling plot, but the fact of the matter is that EA have come up with a scheme that’s working, ethical or not, and there’s not much KONAMI or anyone else can do about it.

Frankly, I don’t see how PES can get back to form. In the pre-FUT days there was a real argument to be made. Do you prefer playing with real players? Stick to FIFA. You want an enhanced virtual football experience? Give PES a go. But nowadays? Nowadays it appears that KONAMI have conceded defeat and don’t have the abilities or willingness to give FIFA a proper fight. You can count on sole gameplay for so long, I’m afraid.

One is left with nothing more than hope such an assumption isn’t true, for the sake of the gaming community and the healthiness of a rivalry that’s been going on longer than most FIFA players’ lifespan. At least with the yearly release schedule of both games it wouldn’t take long to find out which course KONAMI is going to take – the one back to relevancy or the one into videogame oblivion.

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