The news came out this week that FIFA 17 beat PES 2017 in terms of first week sales. It wasn’t a narrow win either, it was an absolute landslide. FIFA 17 sold over 40 times more copies than PES 2017 did in their respective launch weeks. Yep, for every copy of PES 17 sold, 40 people went out and bought FIFA 17.
I can’t even say FIFA decimated PES because it’s factually wrong. It more than decimated PES 2017. Right here in the heartland of footy games in the UK (where FIFA is admittedly the bestselling game, year in, year out), FIFA 17 shifted 1.1 million units while Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 made do with a meagre 50K. What’s astonishing is that is only physical units sold for FIFA, so it doesn’t take into account PC and digital console sales. They say in London you’re never more than three feet away from a rat. Well in Britain you’re rarely more than three feet away from a FIFA owner.
To put this into perspective - FIFA 17 currently sits on a very respectable Metacritic score of 84. PES 2017, which sold a 40th of the units and is an authentic recreation of the exact same sport, beats FIFA narrowly with 85. PES 2017 shifted 588 units for every Metacritic point gained. FIFA 17 sold 13,095. To put it bluntly, PES is getting stiffed. Big time.
It’s fantastic news for EA Sports, not so great for the tumbling fortunes of Konami. Practically out of the videogame business at this point, PES is (was?) its last bastion. The cash cow it could reliably milk year after year. Not so any more. But why?
A lot of it comes down to sheer force of marketing and the official licenses. Konami does an admiral job skirting around the edges of the license issues, but there’s only so much you can do to sell a game where Arsenal are called North London Red. Where FIFA shines is in authenticity. It’s all the commentators, camera angles and player likenesses you’ve come to expect from the real thing. EA Sports has this totally sewn up. For those after the most authentic football experience, they’re always going to follow the license.
This leads to an inevitable spiral in the popularity of PES 2017. It’s quite unusual that there’s even two successful soccer games at all. For most other sports there’s only one. A decade ago there were dozens, but the big publishers hoovering up the licenses has officially put paid to it all.
With PES surely going the way of Wimbledon FC these days, what happens when FIFA is the only football series around? EA Sports does a great job of updating it every year while there’s competition, but what about when their game is literally the only choice for footie fans? Can PES ever turn its ailing sales fortunes around? Let us know what you think!