FIFA 21 is coming this year. But fans have been worried. The effects of the global pandemic we’re all experiencing have been far from normal for the sporting world. This begs the question: will FIFA 2021 be delayed because of Coronavirus? No.
EA has confirmed that both FIFA 21 and Madden 21 are on track for a September 2020 release date, which is what we expected because it’s consistent with previous years. We’ve now seen a first FIFA 21 trailer, too, revealed at the EA Play event in June 2020. But it doesn’t give much away, though we do know the game is coming to PS5 and Xbox Series X for sure, likely after the initial current gen release to tie in with the estimated November release dates of both consoles.
According to news reports, EA confirmed the September release date (which is actually Q2, so that means July to September) in an end-of-fiscal year report.
The report also detailed that FIFA 20, the current FIFA game, reached a huge 25 million unique players. This bodes well for the future of FIFA. We already know FIFA 20 has been received fairly well, on the whole, delivering a suite of new features and tuning up some lacking areas of the beautiful game.
But we’d be lying if we didn’t point out that there are still a few sticking points that fans will definitely want to see improved in the next iteration.
In our FIFA 20 review we talked about how the addition of Volta, the tweaks to defending and the electric soundtrack helped it stand out after years of negligible updates, but that visually the game still doesn’t stick out year on year, and the career mode is in dire need of an update. With PES snapping at its heels gameplay-wise (and taking away from FIFA’s once-pristine licensing agreements) the two titans of soccer gaming couldn’t be closer.
But enough about FIFA 20 for now. We’re going to run through everything we know so far about FIFA 21. We’ll focus on the challenges so far this year, the possible cross-platform release and what we’d like to see from EA’s next entry in this legendary sports franchise.
Will this year’s version put distance between PES and FIFA or bring them ever closer?
FIFA 21 trailer: see the game on PS5 and Xbox Series X
Get the tiniest look at next-gen FIFA 21 gameplay in the trailer above, which EA released in June 2020.
EA has revealed haptic feedback support for PS5, too. “A new DualSense controller on PlayStation 5 with rich and responsive haptic feedback deepens the gameplay experience letting you feel the rhythm of the game in your hands,” is how it’s described.
FIFA 2021 PS5 and Xbox Series X screenshots
No platform was mentioned for these, but this is what FIFA looks like on consoles in screenshot form.
Covid-19 and FIFA 21
EA Games is in an unprecedented position with FIFA 21’s development this year. Never in the history of the series has there been prolonged and widespread postponement of leagues and tournaments, but the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has lead to that right across Europe and many other competitions around the globe.
FIFA games rely on the yearly cycle of tournaments and transfer market moves, with players moving from team to team, and the roster of each annual edition of the game changing appropriately. But with leagues on hold for an indefinite period, we’ve been worrying that running close to the wire against FIFA’s usual September release window, potentially with competitions unfinished and, with real-world professional players needing a break, might push the following tournaments further into the distance. Could this be the first FIFA of the modern age to release without accompanying leagues being in play?
As very much web connected titles these days, this is less of a concern than would have been in the past – a patch can bring any player transfers or scheduling changes into play as a download. But it does mean the developers will have to make more sweeping changes in order to coax a purchase. The fact this is the year that the PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles will release may help in that respect.
And what of the Euro 2020 tournament, now postponed to 2021? In other years, this would usually be added to the game as a downloadable extra in time for kick off. Fortunately for EA, the license this year sits with rivals Konami and the Pro Evolution Soccer franchise. Will Konami maintain it? Or will EA get an opportunity to nab the license in its next year?
FIFA 21 release date
It’s only recently been confirmed that, yes, FIFA 21 will follow the same release schedule as previous years, which usually places the yearly FIFA game in the last two weeks of September – despite the coronavirus impact.
FIFA 20 was revealed in June and launched on September 27, 2019, with FIFA 18 launching on September 28 the year before. We can therefore reasonably estimate it’ll hit store shelves around these two dates, so prepare your wallets, FIFA fans.
Will FIFA 21 be cross-platform?
EA has confirmed that FIFA 21 is coming to PS5 and Xbox Series X.
Given that we can guesstimate FIFA 21’s release date as some time in September 2020, it’s worth considering whether the game will be cross-platform or not. The PS5 and Xbox Series X will be dropping during the holiday season (between October and December 2020), which puts FIFA 21 in an interesting milieu.
Given that both Sony and Microsoft have spoken about the importance of backwards compatibility, we can expect to see the game make the jump to the new consoles at some point, even if it’s simply an upgraded digital and physical release of FIFA 21.
If you cast your minds back to the start of this console generation and the launch of the Xbox 360, you may remember that it boasted an exclusive FIFA game in FIFA 06: Road to the World Cup, so who knows, there could be something similar in the works for Euro 2020 / Euro 2021.
FIFA 21: what we want to see
FIFA 20 is certainly one of the better games in the FIFA series, at least in recent memory. It added a noticeable set of systems, new modes like Volta and some clever tweaks to the in-game AI to keep things interesting, addressing the issues raised by players. Yet there’s always something else to improve in a game with such labyrinthine systems.
More street games
Whilst Volta was a great start, it’s achingly close to the incredible fun of FIFA Street, so if EA was prepared to iterate and update Volta and make it even more absurd and haptic then we’re sure that would go down a storm. Integrating both the street game and the realistic football FIFA is known for would create even more value for the player in the yearly release cycle.
Improve career mode
In regards to what has been heavily requested following the previous game’s launch, players have honed in on updating the now-lacking career mode, a FIFA institution that still needs some polish. Despite the new features added in FIFA 20, it’s clear the system needs some kind of overhaul to keep it from feeling so painfully similar and lacklustre year on year.
Beyond that, it’s starting to become clear that the visual upgrades between each FIFA near the end of this console generation have become negligible, meaning that it would be great to see a meaningful change in graphical fidelity in FIFA 2021. This will most likely come as a consequence of the arrival of new consoles, which boast features like ray-tracing, better audio quality and SSDs for faster loading speeds, which will most likely be the most noticeable change.
Of course, it would be nice to see FIFA regain its licensing agreements so we don’t have to lose Juventus to PES in the next iteration, as well as the exclusive stadiums like Camp Nou that were missing from last year’s release. Ultimate Team is also becoming a growing concern with fans, more so than ever due to the transparency on pack opening odds and heat from national legal commissions around the globe that have caused quite a stir within the community.
Making the system fairer and packs less expensive would certainly afford EA some brownie points and be appreciated by its global army of players. There’s also VAR but uh… let’s not get into that. The inclusion of modern football’s most abrasive system will no doubt cause arguments and be particularly difficult to implement, but if EA is pushing for true Premier League realism, then it would make a lot of sense.