According to a press release from gameindustry.biz , mobile games and esports have helped to drive revenues for Konami to $1.75 billion on the year. When I first saw this press release, I could not help but think to myself, “if Konami is making that much money, then why does PES seem like an indie title?” Harsh? Absolutely, but it was my initial reaction. Now, keep in mind that “revenues” and “profits” are completely different, but it’s still a big number. So let’s talk about what this could mean for the future of PES, and whether it may mean PES gets some more resources moving forward.
The first thing that comes to mind in most PES discussions is licensing. According to reports, EA shelled out nearly $85 million over three years to secure the exclusive rights to the English Premier League. I am a firm believer that the two main reasons for the sales/popularity gap between FIFA and PES are due to licensing and solid online performance (more on this later). As much as I enjoy a good option file on the PS4, the reality is average gamers don’t know about option files, or if they do, they do not want to deal with the hassle of loading them. Even with the amazing things option file creators can do, they can only work within the parameters of the PS4, meaning there are space limitations, limited league slots, etc. Now, imagine if PES had the official Premier League license (including all 20 official stadiums) instead of FIFA. How many casuals would jump ship to play with teams from the most popular league in the world? The global impact of the Premier League cannot be understated, especially in key emerging soccer markets in Asia.
Taking it a step further, the omission of Real Madrid, perhaps the most popular team in the world and winners of three of the past four Champions League Finals, is another huge omission. With a huge worldwide following, especially in South America, playing with “Madrid White” simply isn’t good enough for some people. And it becomes even more compounded when playing against the likes of KB Red White, better known as Atletico Madrid, during the course of a Master League. Lastly on licensing, walking away from the UEFA license this year was most likely a decision based on whether or not the license generates enough play (through the standalone UEFA modes/Master League) to justify its costs (figures on how much the license cost Konami are unknown). Full EPL License with UEFA licensing? Sign this guy up!
Briefly mentioned earlier, the online infrastructure in PES over the years has ranged from archaic to downright bad. A horrible user interface (UI), outdated servers, and the dreaded blue spinning wheel of death have defined PES over the years. Weekly scheduled maintenance where online play is unavailable is also unacceptable in 2019. Online gameplay, despite improving ISP offerings, still suffers from input lag that dramatically forces you to adjust your play. Local peer-to-peer matchmaking or even the “3v3 Co-Op” match play introduced in 2018 suffer from the same lag, and for some strange reason you have to be physically on the same console to play with your friends. In 2019, Konami still thinks that the majority of people still go to a friend’s house to play them.
Konami’s most popular online mode, MyClub, is a fairly well thought out mode but suffers from one huge problem that kills the mode for me: it’s far too easy to build an elite squad. Not even one week after the game was released I was running into stacked teams with fronts such as Neymar, Messi and Mbappe. Even my squad, which didn’t include anyone purchased using real money, was very strong for someone literally running through the mode for the purposes of the OS review. I understand the appeal of wanting to play with the best players, but the joy of a mode like MyClub to me is team building. That concept gets thrown out of the window when it’s really easy to field a team off all-world players.
The last big thing Konami should spend these earnings on is presentation. Loading up a match, whether it be an offline exhibition mode or in Master League, feels very generic. While Konami did update the formation and starting 11 overlays, there is so much more they can do. Turning on a real match a few minutes before kickoff, you’ll see a table, maybe a key statistic like goals against, recent form (usually the last five matches), keys to the game for each side, players of note to highlight, and more. The PES 2019 iteration of Master League presentation puts you into a vacuum minus the occasional commentary line from Peter Drury that usually goes like “he’s scored in three matches running.” Speaking of commentary and how it ties into presentation, it’s horrible and has been for years. Peter Drury’s highly excitable style simply doesn’t translate well into a video game, especially one where he’s not given enough lines. Commentary has gotten so bad that the majority of PES players I know either turn it off in favor of crowd noise, or change it to a language they aren’t even able to understand.
Reading this press release brought about mixed emotions. On one hand I’m happy that the game and company are profitable, meaning more future releases should be in store. On the other hand, I’m upset that mobile gaming, admittedly not my thing, will be the focus moving forward for Konami and could take away much needed resources for PES.
In regards to PES, how would you like to see Konami to spend these extra resources?