The football season draws to a close and we face the inevitable build up to the new wave of football games.
This doesn’t of course just apply to football, but the entire sporting genre however my favourite sport is where my attention lies. In Football Manager 2011, as always, I’ve built a team for youth that could potentially mean that no transfers will be required for 10-15 years, with promising youngsters in pretty much every position and a young first team. It begs the question, why buy a new version? Will there be amazingly compelling new features? I doubt it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved every iteration of the game and felt they’ve all added something but it isn’t going to change my gameplay and no doubt I’ll once again find myself starting to build a young team only to abandon them for a new title in 18 months time. When I think about it, I’m better off sticking with my dated version. It isn’t like the updated database matters when I’m already several years in the future.
FIFA has a similar burden with its Virtual Pro & Manager modes. If you’ve got your local team up into the Premiership and are finally closing in on Champions League football then you’ll be starting from rock bottom again. It can be an impossible cycle. Its all okay if you’ve won everything and completed the game, but how many people realistically manage that? My Pro is still relatively undeveloped. Whilst I played a fair bit with my Pro, he still lingers at around the late 70s mark for stats and I can’t see myself reaching the highest points by August… and what is my motivation to do so any more? He’ll just get wiped when I pick up the new title. Now of course as with FM, I could just not purchase the new game but there is a significant difference between the two and that is online play. Some of the excellent developments in FIFA 11 and Virtual Pro mean that you REALLY want to be online to get the most from the game, especially to play with friends. Missing a title means that you have a diluted pool of players for online action and you have to convince your mates to stay back as well.
So what can be done about it? From a player’s point of view, we really should say “no”. Unless there’s major functional benefits, don’t buy the new game. That isn’t going to happen though, they’ll still be bought in numbers but is there something that the developers can do? For starters if there’s little improvements, don’t release a full new game but do it in the form of a database DLC. I’d happily pay £15-20 (half retail price, well Play.com price) to get the new database, which would only affect online play, friendlies and new careers. Data can already be updated via live season, so there’s potential here. Perhaps even a subscription based approach? However what would be a more desirable approach is the ability to carry your save games across. Rather than littering my console with old save games, let me keep my Pro or current campaign.
Obviously there are going to be data conflicts and good database design & planning of code should help reduce this. If there’s a major overhaul, as we’ve seen with Virtual Pro, then fresh slates are more than understandable but if its more of the same then let us upgrade our footy games, not force fresh starts.
As it stands, I may not buy the latest version of my favourite series (FM) simply because it is addictive and I don’t want to give up my save game! If I was wavering on a getting the new version, or considering a switch to a competing title (PES / Champ Manager) then the ability to keep my progress would without a doubt make my decision and keep me buying the current franchises.