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The Problem Is Us, Not PES

Sometimes it isn’t the world around us that changes, but we ourselves undergo a metamorphosis.

Over the last two years I have taken more of a backseat within Kitana Media partially due to the growing size of the network, but also as a result of life commitments. During that time I have seen the football gaming landscape undergo drastic changes. Has PES changed or does the problem lie with a fan base that has evolved in the age of the Internet and the emergence of the next generation of gamer?

PES today is a totally different proposition to what it was 10 – 15 years ago. This change was driven by three key factors. First and foremost the crown to the PES Kingdom was handed down a couple of years ago. It is no longer a Takatsuka et al product but the vision of Masuda et al. Secondly, the last generation (PS3/X360) saw a seismic shift in the way video games are now developed with the emergence of new technologies that facilitated creating simulation that’s are more representative of the real sport. This shift meant that Konami had to alter their focus in order to compete with their rivals. Finally, we the gamer have changed with the emergence on online gaming, micro-transactions and the rapid rate at which technology now progresses. When you combine all three factors, you have a compelling mix of reasons as to why Konami had to change their tune and why PES 2014 is a completely different game to PES 5 or 6.

During these transitional years of the last generation, Konami stumbled and struggled to adapt quickly to changes in the gaming landscape. Some if these struggles are still evident in the product today, most notably the online problems and the technical limitation of various gameplay elements. However, when you look beyond these specific shortcomings PES has still evolved significantly over the last decade. For many it still represents their preferred choice of football simulation, but for others it the grass was greener on the other side. As with any choice a consumer makes, its purely down to personal preference.

There is a segment of the PES community who are disappointed with some of the shortcomings of PES over the last decade. Some of them being vocal (and immature) take to the various forums and comment sections of leading PES community sites and official channels to let their disdain be known. To those people I would say, at the end of the day Konami don’t know us personally. They aren’t creating a game for us as individuals and this is not some birthright that we are owed. As a team they have their own vision and are trying to create what they believe is the most accurate football simulation. They take the time to listen to the consumers who purchase their product as they may provide insight into what general football gamers would like to see in the game.

What I find unacceptable is the pathetic comments I come across on various PES sites and official channels. Visiting the pages of my first child (WENB) today is like swimming in a swamp of vile comments that represent a deadly concoction of manure and methane. Nobody should attack Konami because they don’t meet your expectations or haven’t added features you want in a football game. It’s their product and their vision and as a company they have demonstrated that they are open to public opinion when it is delivered professionally and with justification. I don’t see pages of abuse on the BlackBerry forums where desperate fans are hoping the company will be able to produce the iPhone killer. Constructive criticism and feedback through the appropriate channels is a far more effective method.

As it currently stands, there is no doubt that the competitor’s product provides a more comprehensive mix of modes and features. They clearly took advantage of Konami’s struggles during the early years of the last generation. But there are many who might not like FIFA; it might not tick their boxes. As I said earlier it’s a matter of personal choice and for many PES might tick the majority of their boxes even if there are some frustrations.

Attacks from the minority aimed at Konami or community leaders do not achieve anything. At the end of the day we are consumers who purchase what we think is the best product out there. I used to love BlackBerry but when their product fell short I shifted to Apple. This is one of the advantages of a competitive market and freedom of choice. Some fans say they are upset since PES used to be a powerhouse, the truest simulation of the sport we all love, but as with most things in life there are ups and downs. Twenty years ago Sony was the undisputed tech king, today it struggles compared to Apple, Google and Samsung. During that same era, Liverpool and then AC Milan dominated European football. More recently it was Man Utd in England and then Chelsea and Man City. Everything in life has its moment to shine and PES did shine bright during its glory days.

At WENB we strive to be impartial by having a wide range of opinions reflected by our various team members. Within our team there are PES fanatics who play daily and those who have defected to FIFA. It’s a matter of opinion and personal choice and I myself have preferred FIFA for over 5 years now. But that doesn’t mean that my disappointment with the progress of PES over the last decade means that I would insult or disregards it entirely. Konami is working hard to innovate one of the flagship titles of their brand, it would be both naïve and foolish to think that PES is where it is because of a lack of effort of carelessness. If anything it is due to an evolving gaming landscape and possibly poor foresight. If Konami are guilty of anything over the last few years it would have to be overstating and under-delivering.

PES has now become the vision of Masuda et al. Over the next few years we will see what that vision is as the development team builds PES on a new vision and ethos led by Masuda-san. There is this misconception within the community that next year might be the year we see a complete overhaul or almost an entirely new product with the next-gen version of PES. This is not how games development works particularly with a yearly cycle. It could happen over a two to three year period at the early stages of a generation, but not to the degree that a portion of the old PES fan base are hoping. Progress is a slow process and you only need to look across to see how long it took the competitor to build their flourishing football ecosystem.

Ecosystem is the key word here as this is how EA have produced a brand that ties people in with a wealth of modes and opportunities. This is what Konami must create, a football ecosystem and not a secluded product that is unable to keep the fans tied in unless they are in front of their TV’s. Online connectivity, stability and options are integral to the success of PES long term. The problem Konami face is that their fan base is ageing with those of us who played during the glory days becoming older and over time we begin to move away from video games, as we become fathers. Our sons will live in a world dominated by FIFA as the de facto número uno unless Konami start levelling the playing field over the next few years. That playing field is the online arena.

Konami should take a page out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s book. He managed Manchester United for over 25 years and during that time football changed drastically as a sport. But Sir Alex always had the foresight to predict and anticipate the changing landscape. When he took over at Old Trafford the top flight of English football was played at a slower pace whilst it still maintained the same level of physicality. During that era most players in the league were British based players. Fast-forward 25 years and premier league football is a gruelling mix of power, pace and skill with players from all over the world gracing the league.  I wonder what team talk Sir Alex would give the Konami development team as they enter a next generation match against a powerhouse opponent that represents Liverpool in the early days of his tenure as Manchester United manager.

This represents a call for rational behaviour and understanding within what I used to believe was the world’s greatest gaming community. Let’s remove this cancer fuelled by anger and frustration and accept that the PES of yesterday cannot exist today. PES has evolved, as have we. We must accept it for what it is today and help it push the competitor for the benefit of the football gaming market. Competition makes for better products.

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