Why doesn’t EA offer FIFA 21 at a discount for Launch?

The cover of FIFA 21's Champions Edition

Yesterday (Monday, September 21), Electronic Arts announced on their social feeds that there would not be a demo for FIFA 21. I can’t remember the last time a FIFA game did also include a demo. It has to lead many to believe that the game doesn’t have enough new content/features for EA to warrant showing the game early. Also, following the less than stellar responses from the Madden and EA UFC communities over their latest games, there is a growing concern that FIFA 21 is severely buggy and not ready for it’s early October. With those concerns, it might have made more sense if EA followed what Konami did and simply release FIFA 21 at a reduced price.

Konami took a huge risk of announcing early that Pro Evolution Soccer 2021 would be a Season Update. They decided to focus their attention on PES 2022 for Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 and felt that they could simply make minor adjustments to their current game and release it. Rather than doing that and still charging full price, they sold it at a discount (roughly 50%), then even offered a further 20% discount to those who played PES 2020 and bought the game through the in-game banners.

I have my thoughts on PES 2021, and for the most part, I like this approach. Yes, the game isn’t fantastic but it’s a lot of fun to play, has plenty of content, and I actually feel like the money I spent ($40 CDN for the FC Barcelona Club Edition) was worth it.

I think the reason why EA didn’t do this is because of the perception the series already has that their games are only ‘Season Updates’. If they went the discount rate, people who just assume the worse and hurt EA’s bottom line.

EA has offered its sports titles for cheap in the past. The NBA Live series, well-known for its troubled development, released at a discounted rate as a way to entice new users. They knew they had the inferior basketball game but when you’re half the price as your competition, it still gets people to say: ‘hey, for $20 dollars, I’ll check out NBA Live.’

They are also pushing hard for their ‘dual entitlement’ for both Madden and FIFA. Buy either game on the current-gen and get the upgrade to the new-gen for free. I think if they offered the One/PS4 version for a discount, they wouldn’t offer a free upgrade but they could still make plenty of money. People buy the current-gen for 30 then the new-gen for 60-70. Sure, some people may skip one for the other, but the hardcore, the ones who buy the game at launch and at full price, would definitely double-dip.

Even with all the frustration I get playing their games, I still love EA SPORTS and every time I see a new trailer or blog, I read it and hope that they’ve improved over the previous year. I was luke-warm on FIFA 19 and I barely played FIFA 20, so I needed something really substantial for FIFA 21. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough around it for me to feel confident the game is worth playing.

With no demo, even if the demo is such a small slice of the full product, people like me who are on the fence must wait for the EA Play trial days before launch to judge the game. And, if you’re not willing to play for EA Play, then you’re hoping reviews of the game are strong enough to make you want to get the game. 

I don’t expect the game to get a delay but I am fully expecting problems at launch. The signs are there: the content they’ve released has been limited (such as a celebration tutorial, which to be fair, they’ve done for years) or purely executed (some of the blogs, like this one for Volta, are just too long), a lot of player information released has been wrong or severely out-of-date, and everyone that I follow who still works at EA, has been really quiet on social (even the many content creators I follow have not RT’d EA staff members with their FIFA 21 hype).

EA has certainly changed the way they market their games over the last couple of years but its clear the approach this year has not been consistent. I want to be wrong and that this ramp to launch has actually been a success for the company. But unless they have something special they’ve been holding back, I’m worried FIFA 21 will be EA’s lowest reviewed soccer game in over 10 years.