Despite a heartbreaking loss at the World Cup, the current hype for soccer in America is hard to ignore. Unless you have been living in a cave, or perhaps in a dystopian, art-deco styled underwater city (just for example), odds are you know, or at least have heard something about the American team’s Cinderella run through the group stage of the World Cup that ended with a Hollywood-style game winning goal from Landon Donovan in stoppage time. In fact, many Americans might not have even known what stoppage or injury time were before they frantically watched it tick away, but they do now. Whether our new crush on footie turns out to be love or just lust, we will have to see, but it does look like gamers are getting behind the game, as America will soon be the top purchasers in the world of EA’s FIFA titles, the world’s best-selling, and best-rated soccer games.
“The U.S. market was our No. 4, in the world, four years ago,” Matt Bilbey, EA Sports’ VP of football said. “This year it will be our number one market.”
According to Kotaku, the surge in popularity towards footie, plus the addition of a second World-Cup-specific FIFA game, is expected to push the US from fourth to first. To be fair, other countries, such as England, that are fans of soccer to the point that you could get punched in the face for calling it “soccer” have more choices, so the market is more heavily saturated. But this is America, and we are now number one in soccer! Take that, world!
The World Cup typically generates a spike in world-wide sales of soccer based video games, the US included, but this year’s run by the American team – even with the loss to Ghana – has sparked public interest in such a way that EA is banking on the game’s popularity to continue to grow up until the release of FIFA 11 in October. When the newest game is released, sales are expected to vault the US into first place in the soccer world. At least in terms of buying FIFA.
There is a flip side to the increase in American sales increasing based on a memorable World Cup showing. Countries where the national team was expected to do well but didn’t – *cough* France and Italy *cough*- sales are expected to take a hit as the national teams’ dismal showings are expected to leave a bad taste in the mouths of soccer fans.
“We are in the footballing gods’ hands,” Bilbey said. “Our French market is probably not going to do as well; soccer is now a dirty word in France for at least the next three or four weeks.”
For those that haven’t been following the World Cup, the French team – 2006 World Cup runners up – made headlines for numerous tantrums said to have come from a rampant overabundance of arrogance, leading to a near mutiny between players and coaches. It left France winless, and culminated with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy vowing to investigate and find out what happened after the French were booted from the tournament. The defending champions Italy also failed to reach the knockout stage and returned home to headlines of “shame” and “humiliation.”.That is unlikely to help move video games.
Despite the loss, American soccer appears to be on the right track, and the fans are beginning to discover, or perhaps rediscover the game. Good news for the game, and great news for EA.