Konami recently announced some big changes for its Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) game series. Come Autumn 2021, the PES brand will no longer exist. Instead, we will see PES renamed eFootball and follow a F2P model. To no one’s surprise this has proved controversial with fans. Despite noisy pushback, Konami are forging ahead and have released an eFootball Roadmap, as well as confirming that popular single player modes such as Master League will be available as paid for DLC. So with such a mixed reaction to their plans, why are they doing this?
A Declining Player Base
It is no secret that there is a big rivalry between PES and the powerhouse that is FIFA. PES used to stand respectably next to FIFA, but in recent years has started to see its player base decline. Looking at player data from SteamDB we can see that FIFA 21 reached a concurrent player peak of 44,388 players. In stark contrast, PES 2021 only reached a player peak of 20,674 players. Even worse, this was lower than the PES 2020 release which had a peak of 21,018.
Therefore, with the game clearly losing players and FIFA continuing to dominate, Konami have decided they must take drastic measures. With a F2P model there will be no financial barrier to joining the game which will clearly boost player numbers.
Creating top gaming titles is not a cheap business to be in. This is especially the case when you must release a completely new game every year in line with the annual football seasons. This is a huge undertaking under huge time constraints. This will include marketing, production, improved graphics, improved gameplay and commercial contracts which must be completed every year. Under a F2P season model, Konami can take some of these cost and time constraint away. There won’t be a need for the large annual marketing programmes or production runs of the latest disks o be sent out to distributors. Instead, gamers will download the software once and probably keep it for years on their device with it automatically updated with the latest seasons.
Of course, with F2P comes the unpopular microtransactions. However, this can be hugely profitable for gaming companies. This is exactly what Konami will be hoping for. With the huge influx of players, they will expect from going F2P, they will also likely expect a very high volume of microtransactions. This model is becoming more popular every year and even paid for titles regularly have some type of optional microtransactions involved.
Will it Pay Off
Whether or not PES renamed eFootball and going F2P will work for Konami remains to be seem. However, they will surely be encouraged by the experience of other games that have followed a similar route. For example, the very popular MOBA and Battle Royale games. Indeed, Konami are at the forefront of this within the football genre and no doubt EA Sports will be watching to see the result of the eFootball experiment. It will no doubt also be helped by the new Valve Steam Deck handheld console device. Also, by the ability of mobile phones to be turned into quality gaming machines with brilliant mobile gaming accessories.
What Next for eFootball
The eFootball Roadmap has confirmed that the game will be released in early Autumn of 2021, with further features rolled out after this date. The official release date has not yet been confirmed; however, it has been announced that fans can expect a big eFootball reveal at Gamescom 2021. Watch this space.
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