A couple of days ago, PES Team Leader Jon Murphy conducted an interview with Eurogamer in which he levelled some pretty barbed accusations in the direction of chief competitors EA Sports. First off, the developer suggested that popular consensus was biased towards FIFA because “they’ve done very well on PR to convince people that the gap is bigger than it actually is…”
Opinion has turned against PES in a way that’s been helped along that isn’t necessarily born out by the quality of the product recently. There was a period of dissatisfaction with the product with good reason – several years – where we didn’t know where we were going. But recently the quality of the product has come back, and I don’t think we’ve been given proper respect for that because so many have bought into the idea that FIFA is better, just in the same way people bought into the idea PES was much better than FIFA in years gone by, and it took a while for them to get out of that situation because it was so ingrained. We’re now seeing the opposite’s true. There’s an automatic assumption now that FIFA is just better.
Murphy also spent some time suggesting some underhand tactics that EA Sports conduct in order to continue their sales dominance over PES titles:
You can talk about two things: the quality of the product and the sales of the product. In terms of the sales of the product, clearly EA has been pulling right away from us. To be fair, if you look directly at the UK, we’ve never had a lead on them. We’ve always had a product quality lead on them, but we’ve never overtaken them in sales. There’s always been a sales gap. The sales gap has grown in the UK. That’s obvious. It’s partly due to the quality of the product, which we’ve been improving and now stacks up easily against FIFA with this version. But it’s also to do with the money spent on marketing and the money spent to lock us out of licenses.
But he left his most dangerous accusations for the subject of plagiarism, which will surely upset some people at EA Sports…
If you look further back into the past of PES you can see they’ve obviously gone from a game that was totally different from PES to one that started copying PES to one that started taking areas PES did well further into the product they have now.
There’s been a whole series of – and I’m sure they won’t disagree with this – taking PES apart and rebuilding theirs in direct comparison. And you see other things, such as the replication of players, which we’re now bouncing back at with our Player ID. And there are other recent examples as well where it seems as soon as we’re announcing one thing they’re announcing the same thing as well. I’m not sure how that happens by accident so often.
What are you saying there? Are you accusing EA of copying PES?
Jon Murphy: Yes.
I wouldn’t say they are actively doing that right now. I’m saying they have a long history of copying PES to get to where they want to be. People shouldn’t forget that’s how they got where they are. You can give them loads of credit for how they’ve got to where they got to now, and you can see it as a totally valuable product in its own right that does have ideas we can all learn from, but we shouldn’t forget that PES innovated all of this stuff and they did copy it.
So is this all just sour grapes? Or do Murphy’s accusations actually hold any water?
While it is true that earlier PES titles were generally accepted as better gameplay experiences, which fell down in comparison with FIFA only in terms of licensing and occasionally presentation. It was a football game for gamers, as opposed to one purely for fans of the sport, with less of a grasp on realism than FIFA built a reputation on. PES’ recent moves towards more realistic gameplay and AI (which came at a cost to the experience unfortunately) could be just as easily suggested as being influenced by the successes of FIFA.
It’s a matter for the chicken and egg committee.
And it’s all well and good accusing EA Sports of copying the developments that PES bring in year on year – like Murphy’s insistence that FIFA’s focus on developing AI consciously mirrors PES’ own AI evolution last year – fundamentally misses the point that developers develop franchises based on shortcomings of previous editions. FIFA’s AI will be fixed because it requires fixing, regardless of what is happening under the hood of the most recent PES game – that is the nature of year on year development.
Let’s be honest here: EA Sports have a long history of slick presentation, not only in the FIFA franchise but in mega-selling sibling series like Madden and NFL. As Murphy notes, they have the money to add the necessary gloss, and indeed to flex the right marketing muscles to suggest they are the better outfit – but any suggestion that the PES team are somehow victims, dwarfed by financial restrictions no matter how hard they try (a direct response to accusations of laziness) needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Because if the problems that PES face, and the gap that exists between themselves and their closest rivals were just down to the underhand tactics of EA Sports, PES Team would not have undergone the recent shake-ups that saw series vet Shingo ‘Seabass’ Takatsuka exit the team (regardless of Murphy’s assertion that his move is sideways and not out). If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, after all.
But it is good to see Murphy getting riled – perhaps he and the team will be able to channel that passion into the game and make something really worth copying. Because I remember the days when PES was king, and I am firmly of the diminishing school of thought that there is room on the market for two big-name football titles: and perhaps if the PES team remember exactly what it was that made them great – the fluid gameplay, the quirks and personality – they might not need to be quite so concerned about what their own noisy neighbours are up to.
So, what do you think? Will FIFA 13 continue EA Sports’ suggested dominance, or will PES 2013 herald the return to the top of the game for Konami? Let us know your thoughts below.
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