EA Sports takes the cake when it comes to franchise overload. The sporting division of industry behemoth Electronic Arts is relentless in its delivery of the various franchises under their umbrella, drowning us in sports entertainment year after year. Of these mega-franchises Madden has been running the longest, but FIFA has proved the more popular worldwide - over 100 million copies have been sold since we had our first taste of footie goodness back in 1993. So, how does EA Sports manage to keep things fresh when they are pumping FIFA games out at such a rapid rate? Simple - by focusing on incremental evolution, slowly working towards the ultimate video game representation of the sport, and taking advantage of whatever hardware horsepower and development wizardry is available at the time. There have been hard times along the way - for years Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer dominated critical opinion, leaving FIFA in a distant second place - but EA Sports' franchise has fought back hard, recapturing the magic from the early days as the seventh generation progressed. There have been missteps, there have been years where very little has changed, but the overall evolution is unmistakable. Now, as the anticipation builds leading towards the release of FIFA 15 next month, it's a good time to take a look back at how the series has evolved since its inception 21 years ago, specifically in terms of how EA Sports has recreated the visual impact of football and the superstar players who enthrall us on the pitch year after year.
22. FIFA International Soccer
So, this is where it all began. It may look quite terrible today, but back in 1993 this was the prettiest football title we had ever seen on the Sega Mega Drive. A football game was a bit of a gamble at the time, as the huge North American gaming market had relatively little interest in the sport, but it proved to be worth the risk. An isometric view was quite a departure from the top down affairs we were accustomed to, and while it took some getting used to it did well to create a television broadcast-esque atmosphere. Licensing restrictions meant that EA was given permission to use the FIFA name but very little else, so we were left with a small roster of international teams and made-up player names. The lack of authentic footballers, league teams and so on didn't seem to bother gamers though, and FIFA International Soccer dominated sales charts upon release, selling 500 000 copies in the first four weeks.
21. FIFA 95
Year two, and things hadn't changed much. The game engine was given only slight upgrades, giving us players with marginally better animation routines and a small bump in pixel count - an early example of the incremental evolution that would become standard procedure for FIFA titles. Besides the understated visual update, the addition of various league teams meant a more expansive football experience, even if the teams were still filled with fictitious players. EA Sports went console exclusive this time around, giving Nintendo's SNES and competing consoles a miss and opting for the Sega Mega Drive only. Sega didn't hang on to this exclusivity for long though, as FIFA 95 was the only FIFA title to stick to a single console.