China has not added FIFA World Cup game to local competition because it is ‘ineffective’

In the aftermath of FIFA’s bribery scandal, the federal investigation into South Korea’s 2022 World Cup bid, and the grim reality of having no football team from North Korea participating in the Olympics this year, …

In the aftermath of FIFA’s bribery scandal, the federal investigation into South Korea’s 2022 World Cup bid, and the grim reality of having no football team from North Korea participating in the Olympics this year, the games themselves are coming up this month. Yet while the globe’s favorite international game — and its organizer — are primed to run a big, world-class tournament in the middle of nowhere, in East Asia, something decidedly less trendy is going on in some parts of the region.

China’s national stadium may be beautiful and modern, but it’s also designed to display eFootball 2022, an expansion of Konami’s computer version of soccer, without any changes to the actual gameplay.

The game, which has had a decent reputation in Japan since its launch in 2009, was originally released exclusively for the PS3. But while it has recently been ported to a different machine, China is only now introducing the game to the country, through the eSuper League. According to MK Ultra, the eFootball developers, they made the decision to focus on China for the competition because, according to the company, “China has about 2,000 clubs and 300 million amateur players — it’s the biggest and most attractive market for eFootball.”

Some of the Chinese clubs include professional Super Eagles, a country-based team with some soccer tradition, as well as the Chinese Super League (CSL), which had been developed and operated by FIFA. Despite FIFA’s 2022 disappointment, the Chinese sport administration has demonstrated a willingness to embrace new growth opportunities, often with soccer, in the hopes of attracting a younger audience. While much of the administration appears to be focused on the commercial side of soccer, a recent crackdown on eFootball development by FIFA means that, for now, the ePremier League in China looks like it will be unaffected by FIFA’s move, at least.

In reality, though, there are problems with eFootball in China, and making a profit off it is likely to prove difficult. A result, for now, of FIFA’s difficult problem of national control. Even with player ratings as high as 4.5 by FIFA, the real Chinese players earn less than $2.50 per hour in wage. And yet, even before the eFootball scandals, China’s sports government was avoiding football, and more particularly FIFA, as a form of revenue-raising strategy. (Even Tencent, the Chinese video game company that has tried to position itself as a rival to World of Warcraft, recently stated that they wanted the Chinese government to focus on Olympic sports). After all, it has been reported that many Chinese citizens do not even pay for the programs required for soccer, believing that it is a government sponsored activity in the first place. This problem seems to have been resolved by FIFA recently, when they promised to help with improvements in fan experience.

Konami has attempted to change the situation by making a point of the many improvements to the game’s authenticity, and of adding authentic elements to its gameplay. These include having the ball hover above the pitch like it does in real life, giving players an advantage over other players. But more concerning to some is the way in which Konami’s engineers modelled the natural rules of soccer for the game in order to increase the realism. According to MK Ultra, changes were made to ease the player’s tracking using high-resolution camera technology, which also enables players to position themselves for more effective shots. But changes to the standard rule sets with the over-run rule and the kicking roulette rule apparently meant that the game is effectively an amateur soccer “accuracy” game. The result is that, even though it features a technology that Konami, the developers, claimed would enable “delightful soccer,” the game is a flawed attempt to be authentic. And in China, that seems to be unacceptable.

Read the full story at HKEx.


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