Pro Evolution Soccer is facing an overhaul – the biggest since its inception. Konami announced on Wednesday that its soccer simulation title will simply be rebranded as eFootball, after bearing the unwieldy title “eFootball PES” for a few years. But more importantly, eFootball will be a free-to-play title that can be played cross-platform anywhere after launch. eFootball launches this fall on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series S/X, Xbox One, Windows 10 and Steam for PCs, with Android and iOS versions coming soon. Crossplay on mobile requires an external controller. A free-to-play live service is an interesting response to the old model of annual paid releases, one still in use by its biggest rival, EA Sports’ FIFA.
“We started planning this move about two years ago to coincide with the console generation transition and changes in the market environment,” eFootball series producer Seitaro Kimura told IGN. “I believe we have already proven that this structure can be successful on mobile as well. By applying the same model to all platforms, we hope that more football fans will be able to play this game on consoles as well.” Although eFootball PES was free on mobile devices, in recent years Konami had also tried this strategy on consoles and PC with eFootball PES Lite, a scaled-down free-to-play version of the main feature. Now it’s all going in.
Live service games – including Fortnite, Apex Legends, GTA Online, or Call of Duty: Warzone – bring in a lot of money, and Konami borrows a leaf from their playbook, hoping to do the same with hundreds of millions of football fans worldwide. The free-to-play aspect should in theory draw more gamers to eFootball, but it remains to be seen whether it can pull some of the audience away from EA Sports, whose upcoming iteration FIFA 22 will remain a prepaid experience (though with predatory microtransactions that have attracted much criticism).
As is the case with any live service game, eFootball will see new content and game modes added over time. While Konami isn’t talking about modes, it did say that local offline matches will be available for free at launch, with partner clubs such as FC Barcelona, Juventus, FC Bayern and Manchester United, among others. But on top of that, Konami will sell certain game modes as optional DLC in the future – this will branch out the player base, so I’m curious how this will go. Konami has also unveiled a roadmap for the first few months, including the rollout of crossplay, Team Building Mode, Online Leagues, a Match Pass system and support for mobile controllers.
Designed with a custom football engine that uses Unreal Engine 4 as its foundation, Konami enlisted Andrés Iniesta and Gerard Piqué as development consultants for offensive and defensive gameplay on eFootball, respectively. In addition, Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr. as global ambassadors, meaning they will grace the game’s splash screens and marketing materials. The new engine enables “Motion Matching” that converts player movements into a series of animations – four times as many as before – choosing the most accurate in real time. Improved ball control uses R2/RT trigger buttons to control strike force, allowing defenders to compete for possession with Match-up and Physical Defending.
Details are pending on many fronts, including whether eFootball will be an always-online title, what kind of offline game modes players can expect, and other partner clubs and licensing agreements. Konami said it will address these in the coming weeks and months.
“Starting with the strong foundation of Unreal Engine, which has allowed us to massively overhaul player expression, we made a number of changes to virtually create a new football game engine that will power eFootball for years to come,” Kimura said in a prepared statement. “With the added power of next-generation consoles and working closely with elite football players, eFootball delivers our most tense and realistic gameplay yet. We’ll be sharing specific gameplay details next month, so stay tuned.”
eFootball will be released in the fall on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series S/X. It will launch “soon after” on Android and iOS.