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If Fifa is about to make an EA Sports FC competitor, that’s great news for gamers

<span>Erling Haaland and others in EA Sports FC 24.</span><span>Photograph: Electronic Arts</span>
Erling Haaland and others in EA Sports FC 24.Photograph: Electronic Arts

Two years ago, the long and lucrative relationship between Electronic Arts and Fifa broke down, with EA taking its ball home and launching EA Sports FC, a new brand for its footie sim series. Fifa president Gianni Infantino made a sulky declaration that he would find a new developer and that, “the only authentic, real game that has the Fifa name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans”. This seemed like a ludicrous boast: EA had 20 years of experience making mainstream football sims – an expensive and highly sophisticated endeavour. How could Fifa hope to find a studio capable of competing?

Well, it looks as if the global football body may have found its new best friend. Gaming news sites have been reporting on a tweet by Ghanaian retailer MohPlay, claiming that a deal had been struck with 2K Games to make a new Fifa title – perhaps even for release later this year. The tweet, which has had over 200,000 views, seems to confirm an earlier rumour about a partnership between Fifa and 2K.

In some ways, it makes sense. Although the American publisher has not developed a modern soccer sim, it has a lot of experience with sports games, via its NBA 2K, NFL 2K, WWE 2K, TopSpin 2K and PGA Tour 2K titles. Furthermore, the latter license was eventually purchased by 2K several years after EA ended its PGA relationship – so the company has form in this area.

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But a new Fifa game this year? That seems unlikely. Even if 2K had begun work as soon as the relationship between EA and Fifa dissolved in May 2022, that was still gave them barely two years to assemble a team, develop the game and create digital likenesses (which would surely include motion capture) of hundreds of players, as well as modelling the stadia.

The reaction from players has been mixed. Many welcome the idea of competition for the EA series now that Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer brand is a shadow of its former self. But 2K games has been criticised for overt monetisation within its games especially the NBA series, where players can use real money to buy players for the MyCareer mode.

I’d love to see a strong new independent competitor – something with the knockabout thrills of 2D titles such as Sensible Soccer or Kick Off 2, or a game that recalls the early 3D era of International Super Star Soccer or Virtua Striker. We do have Sociable Soccer, the spiritual successor to the Sensible series, but it would be great to have something completely new; something fun and fast and eccentric. We’ve seen the introduction of idiosyncratic concepts into the golf sim arena with What the Golf and Desert Golfing – surely it’s football’s turn?

Could we perhaps resurrect the idea of semi-turn-based footie games suggested by ZX Spectrum classic Subbuteo? Or maybe bring back the era of football games that were licensed by a single (often retired) pro? We’re long overdue a successor to Chris Kamara’s Street Soccer or Emlyn Hughes International Soccer. Forget the multimillion-dollar tournament licenses and endless micro-transactions – shall we never again see the likes of Peter Shilton’s Handball Maradona?

What to play

If you rightly miss the glory days of humour-tinged resource management games, then Galacticare by Brightrock Games will give you lots of nostalgic pleasure during the summer months.

Essentially Theme Hospital in space, the aim is to build your own hospital able to cater to the health needs of various extraterrestrial patients infested with space parasites, jellied bones and other disgusting ailments. The learning curve is smooth and forgiving, and the cartoonish style emphasises fun over fundamental business practices.

Available on: PC, PS5, Xbox
Estimated playtime: 30+ hours

What to read

  • Helldivers 2 is one of the biggest hits of the year, and GamesIndustry.Biz has an interesting interview with its creator, Arrowhead Games. One of the key difficulties the company faces is how to deal with the problems that huge success brings – including the health of its staff. “The big difference now, which is horrifying, is the amount of threats and rude behaviour that people in the studio are getting from some really shitty individuals within the community,” explains CEO Johan Pilestedt. They’re certainly not alone.

  • Another interview that caught a lot of attention this week was with Naughty Dog studio head Neil Druckmann, who appeared to tell the Sony website that his next project would “redefine mainstream perceptions of gaming”. He was forced to correct the record, as he was apparently misquoted.

  • Activision has confirmed that this year’s Call of Duty title will be Black Ops 6 – more details will be revealed at the Xbox Games Showcase on 9 June, with a deep dive stream following afterwards.

  • I’m reading Playing With Reality: How Games Shape Our World by neuroscientist Kelly Clancy. It’s a fascinating, far-reaching study of the role played by games throughout the history of humanity, from the forgotten medieval game of rithmomachia to modern simulations and online worlds. It’s published on 18 June.

What to click

Question Block

This question comes from reader Ali, who wrote:

“We often hear about how the video games industry is bigger than the film and music industries, but is often not given the same treatment as those more mainstream industries. However, isn’t it only a bigger industry because the unit costs per video game is often much higher than the unit costs per film or music album?

For example, if one million people buy GTA VI for £60 next year, that generates £60m in revenue, but if one million people watch Oppenheimer for £15 per ticket or buy the latest Taylor Swift album for £15, that would generate £15m.

And as a video games journalist, do you attach any value to reports about how the video games industry is bigger than the film and music industries?”

Although there’s some truth in this, there are a few flaws in your maths. First, for every video game sold, there could be a whole family or friend group playing, so in a fiscal sense, each copy is working extremely hard for that £60m. Also, don’t overlook the huge boom in free-to-play smartphone games, such as Candy Crush or Genshin Impact – according to a range of statistical estimates, there are around 2.5 billion smartphone gamers in the world, many of whom never pay a penny, and certainly not £60.

I have grown to despise how non-specialist news and media outlets refer to global revenue figures every time games are mentioned – something they don’t do with films or music on anywhere near the same regularity. It’s a hopelessly narrow lens through which to view such a bewilderingly diverse art form, and it reduces the cultural value of games to a few money-spinning franchises. I really hope, by the time GTA VI does arrive, that news and arts programmes will find more interesting angles than how much money it’s made for stakeholders.

If you’ve got a question for Question Block – or anything else to say about the newsletter – hit reply or email us on pushingbuttons@theguardian.com.