For the first time ever, a female will appear on the cover of soccer’s most popular video game: FIFA 16.
It’s a notable step for E.A. Sports, given the excitement that’s still lingering after the U.S. women’s soccer team won the World Cup earlier this month, which was the most-watched soccer game in U.S. history.
The move also takes place in correlation with FIFA’s addition of women to the video game for the first time ever. Domestic purchasers will get Olympic gold medalist Alex Morgan running alongside international superstar Lionel Messi. People who purchase the video game in Canada will see Christine Sinclair instead of Alex Morgan – while Australians will see Stephanie Catley.
“Americans are 100% on board when the World Cup comes around,” says Morgan. “Some other years when there’s not a big tournament, there’s a little bit of a drop-off. Having FIFA 16, having women integrated into this, having this video game be the biggest sports video game there is out there, that’ll help.”
That said, the impact of Morgan’s appearance on product sales is questionable to say the least.
“I think it’s a good marketing strategy for the game in North America, because the women’s team has such high brand recognition right now,” says Eric Handler, senior equity analyst for MKM Partners. “But the day the FIFA franchise has to rely on who’s on the cover to sell more units, that will be the peak of the game. It’s doing very well on its own, no matter who’s on the cover.”
While EA has been under fire to include women’s soccer for several years, their choosing of a female cover athlete on FIFA 16 will set a precedent for every FIFA edition going forward.
If EA doesn’t add a female athlete to the cover in 2017 or 2018, are they undermining the decades of sweat and tears precipitated by such unsung, maidenly Patriots? No, they’re not.
Let’s remember, it’s just a video game.