The rumor mill around EA Sports has gotten a little out of handle lately with some people assuming a new EA Sports game is coming back tomorrow on July 20. We do believe one or two other EA Sports franchises are in the pipeline and being worked on (or at least planned) as of now, but we don’t really have a concrete reason to believe any game announcement will happen tomorrow (we would of course love to be wrong). It’s a bit unclear how these rumors got chugging along because the only public statement EA made comes from its EA Play schedule.
EA Sports And The EA Play Announcement
That said, we do know with 100 percent certainty that EA Sports clearly is going to announce something tomorrow. This “extremely cool new addition” relates to adding to an existing EA Sports franchise. It is also cool enough in EA’s mind to give the feature its own spotlight day during EA Play. EA is devoting a whole day of EA Play to scouting in Madden, so it must be something relatively significant because that scouting feature is hefty. Plus, that scouting feature is also perhaps EA’s showcase for how the company plans to do post-release content moving forward as its next evolution in a “live service” development process.
So what could the feature be? What game is it for? Is it maybe something that will end up in multiple games later on like many EA features? Well, let’s make some educated guesses.
FIFA 22 Online Career Mode
I’m starting with the one that, to us, logically makes the most sense (but is not the most likely). A FIFA 22 online career mode is something we reported on back at the start of June after some internet sleuths noticed job postings about software engineers for an “online career mode” in FIFA. EA has had an online franchise mode in Madden for many years, but we’ve never really gotten anything like that in FIFA. There are complexities to soccer that make it not as plug-and-play as the NFL for this sort of mode, but EA did put effort into FIFA‘s career mode last year, and obviously EA is putting a lot of focus into Madden‘s franchise mode this year.
This development focus from EA is a reaction to many years of valid complaints from consumers that the company was not putting enough time and effort into these career modes. Instead, the focus has been on Ultimate Team and individual superstar modes (Longshot, The Journey), more than the classic franchise mode equivalent. The focus has clearly shifted in the last 12-18 months, and so what better way to continue that shift than by introducing an online career mode?
There are hurdles here that still make me a little hesitant to bet this rumor against the “field” — to put it in gambling terms — but from our franchise-focused perspective, it makes some sense. There would be a lot of hurdles here, and it would be really interesting to see what makes it into the mode online versus what would not, but it’s possible.
That said, EA does tend to abandon certain modes in FIFA for long stretches, so it would be odd on some level to see an all-new online mode when something like Pro Clubs is still in desperate need of more love to make it the great mode it deserves to be. However, maybe EA’s metrics say Pro Clubs and even its Volta initiative just are not gaining enough traction, and so the developers want to pivot a bit to focus on a more hardcore crowd.
Something working against this theoretical mode does relate to metrics as well. Online franchise modes are not played by a lot of people — a very low percentage of customers ever touch them (and if they do it’s with one other friend rather than 20+). Now, we’re big believers in that 5-10% of people who ever touch an online franchise mode matter more than a lot of your “basic” customers because they’re driving conversations and setting the tone for a lot of what is said about the game in public spaces. I think there’s a belief that every sports game will just have negative traction in social media and beyond because negativity gets traffic, but I don’t think that’s true. Instead, I think it’s more like the game itself will generally have an overall “negative” vibe, but sports games are big enough now that sub-communities and just general modes get loud positive reactions even within the larger ecosystem.
For example, MLB The Show has more negativity behind it than usual this year due to carryover franchise mode saves and some other longstanding features being removed. However, Diamond Dynasty fans love the game this year and have been very vocal about that. Now, the percentage of people who play Diamond Dynasty is larger than those who play an online franchise mode, but the point remains that companies can get major bonus points for doing something new that hits the big-time fans. The Show got so much flak for the removal of carryover saves not because a ton of people used them, but rather because the most hardcore franchise mode fans used them, plus they were unique and set the franchise apart from others out there.
To put it another way, sports games have to do unique things that set them away from the crowd now to get that positive push. An online franchise mode is not wholly unique anymore — so it’s not a one-to-one comparison to something like carryover saves — but it’s something that a sect of FIFA fans have wanted for a long time. From a numbers perspective, sometimes the resources you pour into a new mode maybe won’t make sense when you look at the end number of users playing the mode. However, that small number of users may have outsized influence, and the mode itself might gain traction beyond the normal game because the feature is cool enough to warrant mentioning when trying to sell friends on it. In a sense, the mode becomes the selling point for the game, even if most people still won’t ever play it. That is what carryover saves (and custom music) were for The Show, and it’s what an online career mode could be for FIFA.
Regardless, we still think we’re a year away from this sort of mode based on when the job postings went up.
Something Else FIFA Related, Like Hypermotion?
I would take “something FIFA related” versus the field tomorrow in either case. If it’s not an online franchise mode, I do think it’s still going to be some sort of new mode — or major addition to a mode. I don’t think it’s just more broadcast licenses, or some addition to Pro Clubs or Ultimate Team. It’s something substantive enough to devote time and energy to during EA Play, and it’s in a big enough franchise to matter as well. It could be something else related to FIFA career mode that’s just not online as well.
The other logical thing is it will just be a deep dive into “Hypermotion” technology. We detailed what we know about this so far based on what EA has said. The wording of the original announcement for EA Play would be weird since we already know about Hypermotion, but it could be something where marketing and PR were just a bit out of step here. We do have a lot of questions about Hypermotion, so this would be welcomed, but it really better be cool to outweigh the announcement of something like a new mode.
Maybe It’s Madden Related?
I mean as much as I would love for EA to come back tomorrow and announce a new weekly NFL Primetime-type show will be in franchise mode — plus there will be a radio show as well — Madden seems well covered at this point. I think we know just about everything major that will be in Madden 22. It releases on August 20, and we’re already being told about what’s going to come out post-launch, so I don’t think it will be more Madden news.
What Other Sports Franchise Could It Be?
Well, we know it’s not Skate 4. Also, the language itself of a “long-running EA Sports franchise” really trims down the field. It’s NHL, Madden, UFC, or FIFA if we go by that language. It would not be PGA Tour or EA Sports College Football since both those franchises have been on hiatus and have new names.
There has been just about zero talk about NHL 22, so that’s not a bad sleeper candidate, but we’re not really sure what it would relate to. I don’t think it would be to mention the “return” of online franchise mode to EA NHL, so the only thing that would make sense would relate to the Seattle Kraken, but EA NHL already has an expansion mode.
UFC 4 was recently added to Xbox Game Pass and EA Play, but I don’t think a ton of resources are going to be poured into that game from here. In the past, EA has put out some large patches for UFC games well after their release, but I don’t think a major new feature would be added at this point.
But What If It Is Just A New Game And This Is All A Ruse?
Yo, but what if?
Look, again, I would love to be wrong but I don’t think it’s happening tomorrow. The Fight Night rumors do have legs, but I think it’s worth putting together a separate news article on what sports franchises EA could revive once the dust settles from this week. We already think too many people are getting their hopes too high for tomorrow, so we don’t want to add more hype to something we don’t think is even happening yet.
EA definitely has plans to expand its sports offerings in the future (and that’s great!), but based on what the company is saying in public, tomorrow probably is not that day.
What EA Sports game do you think this EA Play announcement will relate to?