Evolution of football video games

The forced break in the football season this year has had many of us reaching for our games consoles to fill the gap.

These days, the graphics and gameplay are so realistic that you can almost feel like it’s a real match.

It wasn’t always this way, of course. But the history of football-themed video games goes back longer than we might realise, and their evolution reflects the evolution of video games themselves.

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Early days

Football video games go right back to the 1970s, although the early versions barely held any resemblance to the actual sport. Not much more than a few pixels on a screen, one of the first was Intellivision Soccer from toy manufacturer Mattel.

Next up was Atari in 1980, who were the first developers to look for a celebrity to officially endorse their brand. Thus was born Pele’s Soccer which was still extremely primitive by today’s standards. Throughout the following two decades, a huge number of soccer games were released on various platforms, although most of them have hardly gone down in history.

Celebrity endorsement continued to be a trend, and it’s interesting to look back and see which players and managers were considered to be enough of a draw to entice players to buy the games. Emlyn Hughes, Chris Kamara and Glen Hoddle all lent their names to various games

As with all games of the era, the titles were very hit and miss. Glen Hoddle Soccer won’t stick in the memories of many gamers from those days.

Football games were a crowded market back then, but a few stood out from the crowd. Arcade game Tekhan World Cup was the first game to show the pitch from a birds eye view in 1985, which was a big leap in the evolution of these games.

After that, new and technically improved games started arriving quickly. Kick-Off and its sequel introduced more realistic dribbling, as well as an add-on that allowed players to access a manager mode and create their own teams.

During the early part of the 1990s, the best football games on the market came from Sensible Soccer, that is until Konami entered the pitch in 1994.

The first iteration of their football series was called International Super Soccer, later rebranded to Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) and this first offering has never been bettered as 16-bit system game. Konami may have continued their domination, but EA Sports had already started out with FIFA.

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Football slots to play with casino bonuses

Before we look at the more recent history of video console games, let’s take a detour into a different type of virtual football game. Online casinos with bonuses give ardent football fans plenty of opportunities to combine their passion for the beautiful game with a spot of online gambling. There a lots of excellent football-themed slot games at casino sites which are even more enjoyable when played at with special bonus offers and promotions.

If you are a new customer, then you’ll be able to take advantage of exclusive casino bonuses when trying out some of these football slots. One of our favourites is Football: Champions Cup from NetEnt, which has loads of great features.

We particularly like the neat little bonus game where you have to beat the keeper in a penalty shootout. If you’re using one of the casino offers, you may want to up your stake to the maximum £100 – although we don’t recommend doing this with your own cash!

Another winner is the Football Star slot by Microgaming. This has fantastic graphics and audio, as well as lots of extras for plenty of chances to win. In fact, it’s one Microgaming’s patented 243 ways to win slots, and with an RTP of 96.42%, the odds aren’t bad at all.

Race to the top

Back to the console games, and footie gaming fans these days know that there is only one big rivalry to speak of – FIFA vs PES. When EA Sport released the inaugural FIFA International Soccer in 1993, Konami were not far behind. For a few years, it looked like a fairly even match.

PES fans still maintain that it is the superior product, but FIFA quickly caught up and overtook in terms of popularity and sales. The gameplay in PES may have been excellent – although some of their releases have had a better reception than others – but FIFA had a big home advantage.

While Konami had been the first football simulator to have recognisable faces and individual jersey numbers, EA were officially endorsed and licensed to use the real names and images of the players.

This proved irresistible to gamers, and sales of FIFA started to overtake. The fake names of PES – Ryan Greggs, Ronarid – were amusing, but it couldn’t compete with the thrill of playing with realistic avatars of your favourite players.

It was around the time of FIFA 07 in 2006 that EA started to seriously pull ahead of Konami. Some big improvements to the gameplay code, plus dynamite marketing featuring the stars themselves, and FIFA cemented their place as football video game market leaders.

The story doesn’t quite end there, however. PES remains popular, and arguably the more realistic of the two, but it lacks the license and backing that allowed FIFA to become the top-selling football console game.

In 2017, Konami sought to remedy this, forging official partnerships with several high-level clubs. Some were more successful than others, but in 2019 Konami had a major win when they secured an exclusive deal to hold the licensing rights for Juventus, which includes the very marketable Cristiano Ronaldo. PES may yet regain their crown.

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