World (Cup) In Motion: Looking Back At WORLD CUP 98 - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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World (Cup) In Motion: Looking Back At WORLD CUP 98

Chris Morley crosses the English Channel...
We move now from two into three dimensions with the release of France 98's official video game, World Cup 98. Having got the official licence a year before the tournament, this was EA Sports' first crack at developing for the Jules Rimet Trophy, and it's fair to say they fared far better than the majority of previous attempts. Cashing in straightaway on that official licence, EA released FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 in mid-1997, long before the qualifying stages had finished.

Come 1998 itself, EA Sports added some cosmetic touches to improve the experience of replicating the World Cup on console or PC, including accurate representations of national team kits, before launching World Cup 98 in the weeks leading up to the finals. There was even a touch of the BBC to the proceedings as Des Lynam and Gary Lineker introduced matches, with John Motson on commentary duties.

In another nice touch, World Cup 98 included a "World Cup Classics" mode which allowed the player to play fifteen classic FIFA World Cup matches. The 1982 match is unlocked by winning the "World Cup" mode, and by completing each unlocked game, the next one is unlocked in the order shown below. "World Cup Classics" mode features accurate period team kits (except for the goalies), hairstyles and names, and commentary for this mode only was provided by Kenneth Wolstenholme, the BBC's commentator during the 1966 and 1970 FIFA World Cup.
For the 1950, 1954, and 1966 World Cup Final matches in this mode, the graphics are in black and white, as they were shown on television at the time. The 1930 and 1938 matches are shown using sepia tone graphics. In matches that took place prior to the introduction of substitutions, it is not possible to change a player during the match (however, this also applies to the 1970 final, which was when substitutions became the rule). Other historical inaccuracies include cards being awarded to players in matches prior to 1970 and the use of brown leather balls for matches from 1970 onwards, in lieu of balls like the Adidas Telstar (for 1970 and 1974) and the Adidas Tango EspaƱa (for the 1982 final).

Of course, the main event was the France '98 World Cup tournament itself, where the player could use either the actual teams who have made it into the finals, and organised into their respective group stages, or choose groups composed of a random selection of the 40 included teams. Each match also took place in a recreation of the venue it was played in the actual tournament.
As IGN wrote in a preview-
“At first sight, the game may appear like a slimmed down version of Road to World Cup because of the lack of a player creation mode and FIFA teams, but World Cup does exactly what you'd expect it to do: Perfectly simulate a soccer World Championship. Thanks to the complete World Cup license, accurate teams, and a stadium selection that ranges from Lens to Marseille, World Cup '98 feels like the real thing. “
And indeed it was, right down to the golden goal - two fifteen minute halves of extra time with whoever scores first in that time winning. The rule wouldn't last long, though, surviving only until 2002 when the World Cup broke new ground in moving into Asia, South Korea & Japan's joint bid.

Available for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Game Boy, World Cup 98 received favourable reviews on all platforms, with Next Generation saying of the PlayStation version,
"Electronic Arts' World Cup 98 is technically a winner. The game delivers fast reactions to controller commands, realistic player movement, clean graphics, an excellent soundtrack, and adrenaline-pumping excitement."
Computer Games Strategy Plus gave the PC version fives stars, with PC Zone awarding the same PC version 91%, saying,
"World Cup 98 is quite simply the finest football game on the PC; the perfect accompaniment to the tournament. Not so meat and gravy, then, as a succulent chicken in white wine sauce (or something). Gorge yourself on it."
Perhaps it's no wonder then that EA Sports have held the official FIFA licence since then - although their current licensing agreement ends until December 31st 2022. Speculation suggests that EA are already actually planning for a FIFA-less future, with The Motley Fool explaining one of the biggest stumbling blocks in negotiations.
“In order to call the franchise by its current name, EA has to license the name from FIFA, which it pays a hefty price for every year. With the license coming up for renewal after the Qatar World Cup next year, reports have come out that the two organizations are at an impasse, and that the exclusive naming license is likely not going to be renewed.”
The New York Times also stoked the fire by claiming that money was talking just as loudly as detractors of Qatar's ultimately successful bid to host the tournament suggested it had in that particular case!
“FIFA is asking for a huge increase in licensing fees to $1 billion in every four-year World Cup cycle. It is also limiting what EA can do with the exclusive license.”
Sacre bleu, as any French fan might say. But then, perhaps we can understand any reluctance on EA's part to continue, as...
“...with the FIFA license only covering the naming rights for the video game franchise, EA likely thought $250 million a year was a bit egregious for FIFA to ask for, and that is why it is walking away from this relationship.”
But if Give Me Sport is to be believed, FIFA could be entering into discussions with a new gaming partner thanks to 2K Sports, whose Strauss Zelnick is reported to have responded to the rumour by saying...
"That’s a big step forward for us… we haven’t been in that sport before. And erm, I think I’ll leave it at that today."
Possibly alluding to a near future place in a portfolio which already includes the NBA & WWE, perhaps?
Ironically enough its a Frenchman, Kylian Mbappe, who appears on the cover of FIFA 22 - his goals having helped seal a place for Les Bleus at the next World Cup to defend their title, automatic qualification for the previous champions having been done away with since 2006 & meaning Brazil would have to join everyone else in that year's pre-tournament lottery of sorts.

Mais non!

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