At approximately 11 a.m. this morning, I caved. After years of denial, dismissal and stubborn refusal, I stopped fighting what I thought was the good fight and picked up the controller.
I finally played FIFA for the first time.
See, I’ve been an unapologetic Madden apologist since EA Sports ran my beloved NFL 2K series off the market. Nothing gets me more pumped — especially this time of year — than firing up the Xbox for a game. While everyone around me switched footballs over the last few years, I held firm. When someone would throw down a challenge, I would paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld: “I choose not to play.”
But I found myself in a shrinking minority. FIFA ’12 sold 10 million copies. Madden ’12 sold 5 million. The global impact of soccer across the world can’t be overstated, but soccer is already the second-most popular sport in this country for kids and adults 12-24. The success of the American womens’ soccer team in international play is genuinely compelling, and let’s face it: Despite the clichés, it’s exciting. The underdog wins 45 percent of the time. All of that adds to FIFA’s appeal.
“It’s a well-crafted game, to begin with,” said Jay Hanewald, University student and FIFA fan. “But, on top of that, it’s very free flowing. Unlike Madden, the action only breaks for a few seconds for throw-ins and set kicks. Also, there is a lot of depth. Tons of leagues, tons of game modes.”
The current iteration of Madden, with Calvin Johnson on the cover and doomed to suffer The Madden Curse (man, that’s a whole different column, right there), has a much-hyped physics engine that promises no two tackles will be the same. But in my experience with it, even though it feels more polished and sleek, there have been the obligatory glitches in collisions. It’s a great game, but it’s not revolutionary. And it’s fueled by football’s enormous American popularity. Can soccer ever compete with America’s Big Four sports?