Good news for fans of women's soccer and EA SPORTS' popular FIFA video games: 12 women's national teams will be available to play in FIFA '16, which comes out September 25. This marks the first time women's soccer teams have ever been featured in the video game.
Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, and the United States will all be playable teams. (We're a bit disappointed to see Japan left off the list, as we were looking forward to tallying some assists with Naho Kawasumi.)
This is big news for a number of important reasons. While some might downplay the role of video games in growing a fan base for a sport, some of that growth can certainly be attributed to young people playing games like FIFA. In fact, a 2014 ESPN Sports Poll found that 34 percent of FIFA gamers became fans of professional soccer after playing it. Half said they became more interested in the pro game after playing the virtual version.
Combined with the Women's World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, this addition has the potential to help bolster interest in women's soccer. Perhaps even more important, young girls will have the opportunity to see players like them in the game.
The women's national teams will be available to use in Match Day, Offline Tournament Mode and Online Friendlies. While it might be tempting to see how the USWNT stacks up against the Sounders, these women's national teams can only play against each other in the video game. Sorry.
While the timing of this release was deliberate, with the World Cup this year, EA SPORTS has been working to incorporate women's soccer players for the last two years. David Rutter, vice president and GM of EA SPORTS FIFA, told the Huffington Post that the long process was so they could do the women athletes "justice" and not just throw a women's head onto a man's body and have them play the same.
To get it right, EA SPORTS spent the last few months working with each of the 12 national teams to capture head-scans, facial features and hairstyles of players included in-game. This includes bringing a mobile head-scanning unit to a number of different tournaments and events around the world.
EA SPORTS also invited Seattle Reign FC player Megan Rapinoe and her USWNT teammates Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, and Sydney Leroux — as well as members of the Canadian national team — to their Capture Lab in Canada to record player movement and help ensure players in the game look and move like they do on the pitch.
"I honestly can’t believe all of the science and technology behind the game itself, let alone getting us into the motion capture suits and eventually into the game," said Abby Wambach. "We’re all excited to see ourselves in the game, but even more excited to see the reaction from all of the fans, including the fans of our team that maybe wouldn’t be expecting something like this from EA SPORTS."
FIFA '16 can be played on PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. The video game won't be available when the Women's World Cup kicks off next week, but players will be able to select some of the top-performing athletes from the World Cup and see what magic they can create.
I know the first thing I'll be doing: trying to score an Olimpico goal with Megan Rapinoe and the USWNT.