Whatever you think of FIFA, the series is an absolute phenomenon. Back in October, FIFA 17 broke sales records, with its week one sales up 18 percent on the last game. Where other yearly titles are known to be struggling slightly when it comes to numbers, FIFA dominates every year, without fail, and is even still growing.
Though FIFA is a multi-platform release stretching from home consoles to mobile, EA’s support for Nintendo’s platforms have always been a little strange. The Wii U launched with FIFA 13 some three months after game arrived on other consoles. It had a number of new features, but also committed the unforgivable crime of leaving out Ultimate Team and, honestly, it just wasn’t on the same level as even the Xbox 360 and PS3 counterparts overall. It did have touch screen controls (like FIFA Football on PS Vita), but they felt alien and pointless, though were certainly an attempt to make use of the hardware it was developed for.
In comes Nintendo’s Switch , then. A new home console that’s also a portable and has the mantra “Play anywhere, anytime, with anyone”. We’ve enjoyed playing Zelda on the toilet, and we’ve entertained the kids on a long drive with 1-2-Switch. It’s actually true: Switch is, for a change, exactly what the marketing claims it to be, and on top of that it’s got a mountain of indie games coming throughout the year. But what about FIFA, and the supposed ‘Curse of EA’, the idea that without the studio’s full support, a hardware platform flounders, flails and dies?
EA has said that FIFA 18 will come to Nintendo Switch, but while we can be almost certain the game will hit most systems in the autumn, we don’t know when for sure just yet. Peter Moore, (then EA’s chief competition officer, but leaving for a role at his beloved football team, Liverpool FC) simply told GameReactor that “we are custom-building a FIFA version for the Nintendo Switch. It will be FIFA 18, and it will obviously be later this year when FIFA 18 comes out.” The suggestion there is that it should come to Switch at the same time, but if it doesn’t that’s a real body blow to Nintendo’s fledgling but extremely promising console.
FIFA is enormous. The sales figures prove this, and FIFA 17 is still in the top ten (in 7th place) as of March 2017, some six months after release, beating even Call of Duty when it comes to staying power. From kids to teenagers, or YouTubers to just adults winding down after work, this is a game that crosses all markets, all ages. Whether people are living out fantasies in Be a Pro and The Journey, taking their beloved lower league team to the very top in Career Mode, or just spending hours building their Ultimate Team to brag about, there’s one question that applies to all of these player types: why would they wait? If the Switch version isn’t out on the same day as the PS4 and Xbox One version, it’s too late. But if it does manage to hit stores on the same day, with the Switch’s digital store seemingly working fine, it could be a massive boon for Nintendo. People invested in the console already will want to play games on it. Why wouldn’t you want to take FIFA 18 everywhere you go?
This plays into one of the things we secretly think Nintendo wants to achieve: making the Switch your primary console. Microsoft and Sony have had dalliances with remote play (Xbox via PC, PS4 via Vita), but the Switch isn’t remote-anything: the console is a tablet you can take anywhere. We’re absolutely convinced that if FIFA 18 can have feature parity and at least close to the visual fidelity of the established consoles (4K aside), people will choose the portable version that also works on the TV.
But then there’s another factor: Ultimate Team. We’ve tested our Switch on the go, with the Splatoon 2 Global Testfire, tethering our Switch to our mobile hotspot and… it works. It works well. With a decent 4G signal this means online gaming is a plausible thing with a Nintendo Switch. Let’s put this into more exacting terms: this means a home console online experience, on the go.
If FIFA itself is a massive property, Ultimate Team is the main event draw, and EA knows that people want to do it on the go. The mobile app that lets you hit up the transfer market and buy and sell players has become increasingly important, and received better support in recent years. With Nintendo saying that they will be handing off some traditional features to smartphone apps (party chat, for example), there could be some seriously interesting possibilities here.
Get all of this right, and FIFA 18 could make the Switch the console of choice. Third party has been a struggle in recent years, but if we were Nintendo we’d be throwing money at EA to make FIFA 18 on Switch compare favourably with the PS4 and Xbox One version, because simply by hook of what the Switch is designed for, we’d all be getting the ultimate version of the game.
Every feature, on the go, with anyone, any time. We’ve written the tagline for you, EA and Nintendo, now make it so, because if FIFA does it, others will follow, and Switch will get the support it needs to make it. On the other hand, if we end up with another Wii U-like FIFA? Well, we did say it could make or break it.