Why is Soccer the Most Popular Video Game Sport?

FC 24 commentators Guy Mowbray and Sue Smith

Why is Soccer the Most Popular Video Game Sport?

Pulse Sports Team 14:04 - 14.06.2024

There’s NFL and there’s NBA 2K. And there’s MLB The Show, NHL, WWE and even Top Spin 2K…

But then there’s EA Sports FC. FC is the monolith of sports games. Previously known as FIFA before EA broke ties with the official soccer association, this sporting game is one title which trumps the rest in sales, hype and impact on the world of gaming. But why? Why does soccer translate so compellingly into a video game compared to other sports which—while having die-hard followings—don’t have the same general appeal? Let’s take a look.

Global Appeal

Football—known to the Americans as soccer—is one of the most celebrated sports across the globe. Of course, many locales have their favourite sports; be that the USA’s American football, New Zealand’s rugby, South Asia’s cricket or East Asia’s baseball. But across them all, football has a strong presence. That’s thanks to to competitive local leagues across Europe, South America, Africa and much of Asia. And, of course, we cannot understate the power of the World Cup—one of the largest sporting events on earth; so ubiquitous that it’s common name omits the sport entirely.

Ultimately, football/soccer is popular. And that popularity translates into the virtual world, with football perhaps boasting the largest global fan base of any competitive sport.

Simple, Engaging Action

Beyond it’s appeal, though, there are other reasons why football might be so popular. One is the sport’s simplicity. Think about it: the aim of football is to kick the ball into the opponents net without it going out. Across two sessions of 45 minutes. Sure, there are some other rules but the majority of the sport is explained in a simple sentence. Something which can’t quite be said for sports like Rugby, American Football, Cricket or Baseball.

Not only is it simple to grasp, but football is also continuously engaging for all players. That’s because your team is either attacking or defending—and both roles are continuously engaging with minimal breaks between play. Compare that to cricket, rugby or American football which all feature frequent breaks in the action and it’s easy to see why football makes for a more engaging video game experience.

Strategic Depth

Looking deeper than the action itself, we have strategy. All sports have deeply complex strategies which teams use to outsmart other teams. But the question here is: how does that translate to the video game? Football’s continuous and engaging gameplay loop allows for that strategic depth to come out continuously, with tactical elements having meaningful effects in the short term—making them much more satisfying to execute than some long plays in other sports. It also encourages plenty of experimentation, allowing players to dabble in different strategies.

Multiplayer Magic

Sports are social—even if that comes from their competition. Football is well positioned to being a multiplayer game as the teams are large enough to accommodate plenty of players. While all players will always be active during play—as opposed to sports like baseball. This lends itself best to chaotic online or local play, allowing friends and randoms to compete in quickfire matches.

Fantasy Fulfilment

Fantasy football has long been a part of footballing fandom. With fans creating composite teams and scoring points in their own fantasy league tables. EA did a great job translating this into a videogame version within the FIFA and then FC games, through Ultimate Team. Where players buy fc24 coins to get their hands on new footballing stars to grow their team. This interacts with real-world fandom, while offering up more functionality within the game itself.

Popular for a Reason

As we’ve seen, there are plenty of reasons why football translates well to video games. It’s also worth mentioning that EA have a seriously long history at developing football games—longer than some other studios in the sports gaming space. Meaning they have the systems, experience and—importantly—finances to make their football games as good as they are. 

The only question left is: will football games ever be overtaken by another sports game?