EA Sports has defended its decision to allow male and female footballers to play together in FC 24 Ultimate Team mode, saying it is using new technology to combat toxic behavior online.
FC 24, EA Sports’ first post-FIFA football game, lets male and female players play with and against each other in Ultimate Team, the game’s most popular and controversial mode. Female players are not at a natural disadvantage in Ultimate Team either. If a male and female player have the same attributes (statistics), same height and same mass (controlled by weight), the results on the virtual court are exactly the same. Attributes are relative to the competition the player is playing in.
This means that Chelsea superstar Sam Kerr brings her overall rating of 91 against the Women’s Super League to the Ultimate Team and can compete with male players of the same rating in the fashion.
After last week’s FC 24 reveal, some in the FIFA community argued that mixing women and men in Ultimate Team was unrealistic and contrary to what they considered an “authentic” soccer simulation. The problem, some of these players said, was that they felt women would struggle to compete with men in real life, and they should also struggle to compete in FC 24. Some said men and women should be limited for their own modes in Ultimate Team or suggested that they didn’t want female players in Ultimate Team at all. Some even threatened to boycott FC 24 altogether.
‘It’s something we thought deeply about’
In an interview with IGN, John Shepherd, VP, Executive Producer at Electronic Arts, insisted that the decision to mix men and women in Ultimate Team was the right one, saying that the developers had a strong sense of using their game to promote women’s football.
“It’s something we really thought deeply about,” Shepherd said. “We feel we can play a really important role in the growth of that sport by introducing it to all our fans. We just have this belief that we believe we’re going to unite the world around football.
“Ultimate Team is a great place for that. It is a mode where you can build your fantasy team with different nationalities, different leagues, different clubs. And so it felt like a great place to be able to do it.”
When asked what message EA Sports had for so-called FIFA fans who complain that FC 24 Ultimate Team mixes men and women, Shepherd highlighted the Kick Off mode, which limits players to using virtual versions of real teams with their real players.
“We have a vision to connect not just the 150 million fans we have now, but a billion fans,” Shepherd said. “We want this game and this brand, this club, this ecosystem, to welcome everyone. In terms of our decision on how to integrate women’s soccer into Ultimate Team, we really feel strongly about that.
“There are other forms of play, such as Kick Off, where it is more about that club playing together against another club. But Ultimate Team for us is a mode where you can have a mix of players and you can build the best team. And we think it will be great for football and we think it will be great for our fans and our future fans. That’s what I wanted to say.”
Speaking to IGN, senior producer Sam Rivera said Ultimate Team should be thought of as a “fantasy mode” that already lets users create teams of players who could never play with each other in real life.
“Ultimate Team is a fantasy mode,” Rivera said. “You don’t see Mbappe playing with all the icons. That’s Ultimate Team — fantasy football is what happens there.”
In general, FC 24’s women players will probably be shorter and lighter than the men. While stats for both attributes affect gameplay – a tall player can reach balls that shorter players can’t, a high-mass player will outperform a low-mass player, etc. – female players are expected to hold their own in Ultimate Team. In fact, some of the top male players currently in fashion, such as Argentine legend Lionel Messi and Italian Icon Fabio Cannavaro, are short with low mass.
As Rivera put it: “It’s not just about being tall and being strong. The core message here is: If everything is equal, they play the same way.”
Agility is a key attribute. How quickly a player reacts, turns, accelerates, intercepts and blocks are all important factors in determining their usefulness in the game.
EA says it takes toxicity ‘really seriously’
With the addition of women to Ultimate Team, there are concerns about increased online toxicity. FIFA has previously received criticism for racist user-generated content in the Pro Clubs mode, but Ultimate Team has suffered similar problems. Players are bracing themselves for everything from sexist club names to inappropriate team composition once FC 24 is released in September, and Ultimate Team players beware online.
Without going into detail, Shepherd said this was an important issue for EA Sports and confirmed new work had been done to try to tackle online toxicity as more women potentially try Ultimate Team mode.
“It’s something we take really seriously,” Shepherd said. “It’s an ongoing thing. It’s a constant effort. We have a team within EA that is fully focused on toxicity and understanding what’s happening in the game. We’re moving to some newer systems even for this next game where we use some new services to help us monitor names.
“It’s getting really complex. Because people are able to get around different systems, we have to update and adjust those systems. We’re moving to some new technology in our backend on the server to help us with that. But it is just one thing out of many. It’s a group of people who are constantly looking at the toxicity of the game and understanding how we can make sure it’s a safe environment for everyone. But it’s one of the things that will take a constant effort for us to continue to focus on.”
Check out IGN’s EA Sports FC 24 hands-on preview to get an idea of how this year’s game plays. Nintendo Switch owners may be interested to learn that their version is much improved over previous Legacy editions of FIFA.