Soccer fans around the world are rejoicing as the latest installment of the popular FIFA franchise from EA Sports is now available for purchase. As with all new editions in a video game series, improvements have been made, and gameplay has been enhanced. But this year's iteration comes with a much more notable upgrade: the chance, for the first time in the history of the FIFA franchise, to play with women's national teams.
There's also new cover art for the video game. Previously dominated exclusively by men, the cover for some versions of the game now features United States women's national team forward Alex Morgan next to Argentinian star Lionel Messi.
We've already seen some cool things happen as a result of these changes. Morgan, for example, got to face off in a FIFA 16 match against NBA superstar (and big-time soccer fan) Kobe Bryant. She also appeared on SportsCenter last Tuesday to talk about the impact women's soccer is having on growing the popularity of women's sports.
Morgan noted that EA Sports should be praised for bringing women's sports into mainstream video game culture. The hope is that younger generations will get more exposure to these female athletes and get to know them better. Still, the game has room for growth.
For instance, there are only 12 female teams to compete as and they are all national teams — there are no female club teams. Additionally, women's national teams can only compete against other women's national teams. These characteristics resonate in light of the fact that almost half of today's video gamers are women.
For the record, this isn’t the first time female athletes have been featured in video games. A graphic from Vocativ gives a history. Some highlights:
- Mia Hamm Soccer 64 (2000) let people play as entire female soccer teams.
- Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 gave people the option to play as one female pro golfer, Natalie Gulbis.
- NHL 13 featured Canadian Hayley Wickenheiser and American Angela Ruggiero.
- EA Sports UFC (2014) gave gamers the chance to play as Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate.
FIFA is the world's highest selling sports video game franchise, outpacing the Madden NFL series by around 30 million copies. And with changes like this, the popularity should only continue to grow.