Considering the chorus of clinking handcuffs within the world’s soccer governing body, EA Sports must be thanking its marketing stars that it’s got a bit of good news to share about its game franchise that shares a name with FIFA.
The company today announced it’s including 12 women’s national teams in FIFA 16, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, and the U.S.
It’s no coincidence that in the same year Vancouver plays host to the 2015 Women’s World Cup, EA Sports decided to finally include women in its long-running FIFA game franchise. The company’s Vancouver studio is home to its FIFA design team and franchise vice-president and general manager David Rutter says it provided the perfect opportunity.
“The conversation about it has been going on for three or four years,” says Rutter. “It’s always about how much time, money, resources, and features do we have to put in any given year’s game, and balancing what’s most important to our fans. It’s a debate we have around any new feature, whether it’s women in the game, new passing techniques, or, like last year, new goaltending in the game. These are difficult decisions, but this year more than any, with something as big as having women in the game to be on the cusp for a number of years, we just had to do it. Ultimately this was an easy decision to make, it was just difficult to have all the capabilities there to actually make it happen.”
To be clear, technology is getting the brunt of blame for why it took until the year 2015 to have both genders included in a franchise that started in 1993. Rutter, who has headed up the FIFA game since 2007, says it’s taken the company this long to get the design, and technological development of the men’s side of the game to a certain authentic standard that only now were they able to extend that to women’s soccer.
“The idea of introducing all manner of features into the game has hinged on how confident we are in delivering it in an authentic way,” says Rutter. “And this year we felt that the timing was right to include women because the video game was in such great shape that we’d be able to support that at a level of quality that does justice to the women’s game.”
In any event, the U.S. women’s national team has long enjoyed strong fan and media support, but the international women’s game has seen a boost in both popularity and coverage over the last few years, between the last World Cup and the exciting 2012 London Games tournament, and the 2015 world Cup is expected to break attendance and ratings records.
“I’d say women’s soccer is much more popular now,” says Rutter. “My two daughters love the game and ask me daily why they can’t play as women in the game. We’re at this point that there are a large amount of people who play our game, many of whom are women, and I think during the Women’s World Cup it’s important that people can play as their favorite players there, just as they’d want to play as Messi or Ronaldo during the men’s tournament.”
American national team player Alex Morgan was one of the players who provided her playing skills for motion capture at EA’s Vancouver studio and says she was really excited to hear that women would be in FIFA 16. “I think it’s just great exposure for the women’s teams and the international women’s game,” says Morgan. “It’s also really cool because we have a huge following of young girls and it’s great to have them be able to know more about who we are, who we play against, what our rankings are, all of that stuff. If I had had the ‘99 World Cup team on a video game and was able to play as Mia Hamm I think that would’ve been pretty cool and would’ve had a big impact on me.”
The game hits store shelves on September 22.