FIFA 11 has sold over three million copies in the UK alone - out performing its nearest rival, PES, by almost 10:1.
We caught up with FIFA Creative Director Gary Paterson, Scottish ex-pat and Aberdeen fan, to learn about how EA approached FIFA 11, where they felt it succeeded - or failed - and what lessons can be learned for the inevitable announcement of FIFA 12, with expectations higher than ever...
Have you been surprised by the success of FIFA 11?
I don't know about surprised, but we were definitely nervous following FIFA 10. When you're on top it's a different challenge, and I think it's going to stay that way.
We purposefully went a little bit more hardcore - trying to get (players) to think about how you play. But then there's the silent majority who probably just want to pick it up, play, and have fun, and I think some of the reviews reflected that.
Did reviewers get what it was trying to do?
Some did, some didn't. I think our feature execution was strong, but not enough for some. That's the challenge. The features were there to alleviate the hardcore players' concerns, but we couldn't go far enough - not as far as we wanted - because we didn't want to alienate the vast majority.
How do we get around this?
We worked quite closely with the community last year, and 35 or so of them came here last April to play early versions of the game, and give feedback.
They email us back and forth, we're on the forums speaking to them. We're trying to go as far as we can in the direction they're looking for. But the vast majority want to fulfill football dreams.
Say Arsenal got beat 3-2 by Tottenham - you might want to reverse that scoreline. You don't want to sit there and learn how to play for ten hours before you can suss it out.
What were the hardcore players' main
The two main areas - bar bugs and minor exploits, which we're on top of - are what they call 'ping-pong' passing, and high pressure. So if you play online a lot - the really good players will pass, pass, pass and when they defend, they'll just be high pressure and sprinting at you the whole time.
So the pressure's too strong, fatigue isn't strong enough, passing is too easy. We changed the fatigue model and I think we've got some success, but not as much as the hardcore want.
We also added pro-passing with more contextual error and attribute affects. We made some progress, but some ideas didn't make it. Like changing defending to be less easy, and more tactical. Again, we have to make a game for everyone. That's the challenge for us.
How have people reacted to the Personality Plus system?
Mixed. I think some people saw the value, other people - especially the hardcore - wanted us to go further.
I think with Personality Plus we could have backed it up with more visual cues for what we're doing because there's a lot of stuff that happens under the hood.
We had a database during development that listed all the effects of all the attributes, and it was really, really long - I think the visual cues, or maybe the commentary cues, just wasn't there. We needed that to convince more people that it was actually doing something.
So how do you 'fix' it?
You could have Andy Gray comment on something you did, like, 'he was obviously trying to find that hole but...' for a through ball or killer pass that went awry.
We could also use replays - show some information about what was supposed to happen and how that went wrong. It's a tricky one, but that's the one area I think PES gets the benefit of the doubt, and we don't tend to.