Before the introduction of FUT Champions and the Weekend League in FIFA 17, FIFA was a casual game for me. I would try to climb the divisions in Ultimate Team Seasons but I would mess around with interesting teams like all Swiss squads, or in-form Championship line-ups – anything to add a little variety to the mode. However, the Weekend League (WL) taught me that the game could be taken seriously. By making the most of the numerous coin-making tactics and building teams that took advantage of the gameplay, I would be able to play against better players for prizes that could have a huge impact on my team.
With that, when FIFA 18 released I wanted to do what I could to improve as a player and to build a better team, which meant playing the Weekend League. For the first couple of months or so, I would finish around the Elite 3/Gold 1 rank (25-29 wins) and my team was coming along nicely. I was rewarded with David De Gea from my first monthly pack and I was happy with how I was progressing.
However, as the weeks have gone by and the game has changed, I have become frustrated by how the Weekend League is structured. Playing 40 high intensity, competitive games in 72 hours is tough and it has got to a point where I don’t enjoy playing the matches anymore. It isn’t the game itself that has caused this feeling, but rather how the mode is structured in such a way that it pressures you to complete all the matches, which can be quite stressful. WL needs a structural change to keep players interested, and I’m not alone in having this view.
A quick browse of the FIFA 18 Reddit or the EA Forums conveys how many players are burnt out on the mode less than three months after release. Many fans feel that completing the 40 matches is more of a chore than a fun way to pass the time and/or is a mode that blocks anyone with a job or other commitments from accessing. Of course, there’s the argument that you don’t have to play it but FUT Champions is where the best rewards are obtained and any FIFA fan would want to be a part of it, but EA has made doing so a challenge in the wrong way.
Even the more dedicated FIFA players are struggling with the demands of the mode. A few weeks ago, professional FIFA player for Futwiz, Samer “Samer96” Elbadar, quit his team and decided to continue to play the game casually. In a statement, he said, “I’ve just had enough and decided it is not worth my time anymore to be stressing over this game week in, week out… Even though I’d try to balance it out, the 40 games alone each weekend will definitely take a huge toll on anyone’s life and I just don’t want to commit to that anymore.” Popular FIFA YouTubers/Streamers, including NepentheZ and Nick28T have also mentioned their desire for the structure of the Weekend League to be changed.
With fans falling out of love with the game due to frustration, the issues with the gameplay itself need to be taken into account. The input lag issues that some are experiencing, the unexplained ‘kick-off glitch’, inconsistent defenders, goalkeepers, and referees, and in-game events that are to be down to pure luck are encountered in most matches. These issues were some of the complaints that formed the #FixFIFA movement that was started last month. While they are undeniably problematic on their own, the structure of FUT Champions simply makes them more noticeable and more frustrating.
Playing 40 games, which takes roughly 12 hours, in a 72 hour time period simply isn’t a healthy way to play. You’re playing against the best players, one after another, cramming games in to get them all finished before the weekend ends. If you’re busy on one or more of the days, or have a job that takes away some of the time, you have no way of competing for the best prizes. When pressed for time, players are forced to play late at night, or for an extended period of time. Also, since it’s FIFA 18’s primary competitive mode, the games are intense, challenging affairs that require constant focus and razor-sharp reactions. Tiredness will stop you playing well and will cause you to lose matches that you normally wouldn’t. This isn’t how a video game should be enjoyed.
Of course, how exactly EA should change the structure is complex and there’s a couple of options. One of the early WL weeks during FIFA 18 saw some people face connection issues and the duration was extended by 24 hours to cover the lost time. While this ensured some people could have the standard length of time, for many the extension meant that they had four full days to complete their 40 matches. It made the mode a lot more fun for many, and fans began to suggest that the 24 hour extension should be a permanent change. Those with limited time during weekends would be able to take part, and those that already do wouldn’t be subjected to the same levels of stress. However, a 24 hour extension wouldn’t solve the other issues that hamper FUT Champs, so a full overhaul of the mode would probably be the best long-term option.
A deeper ranking system, one that sees you matched against players of a similar skill level, is something that should be introduced for FIFA 19 and beyond. No more short windows for playing a huge number of games, instead replace it with a season type requirement that tasks you with playing a certain number of games in a month, with rewards of the current structure scaling to match the period change. The top few percent of players are promoted to a higher division, and the bottom percentage to a lower. This will make for fairer matches and will counter the manipulation of matchmaking, seeing the top players truly tested against the best and the more casual players having more fun. That structure is similar to the Online Seasons mode, but it aligns with the successful competitive modes in other games.
We’re not going to hold our breath for radical changes for FIFA 18, but change is necessary for FIFA 19. Whether it be a simple extension or a complete revamp, it’ll be welcomed with open arms because, in it’s current state and with the frustration and stress it brings, the FUT Champions Weekend League isn’t healthy for the game or its players.