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Fifa v PES: the history of gaming’s greatest rivalry

The football games’ 25-year turf war has been an exciting match. But will the next generation of consoles be the final whistle for PES?

Earlier this year, Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto was due to compete in a charity Fifa 20 tournament, which ultimately raised almost £130,000 towards the fight against coronavirus. Yet his first-round match against Eibar’s Edu Expósito never took place. The reason? Barca are an official PES 2020 partner club – and publisher Konami reportedly wasn’t keen for him to promote its main rival. It was the latest shot in a turf war going back 25 years.

When Fifa International Soccer launched on Mega Drive in December 1993, its competitors were already beginning to look old-fashioned. Contemporary hits Kick Off 2 and Sensible Soccer both adopted an overhead view and lacked any kind of big-league sponsorship. But Fifa was a flashy newcomer, designed for the 16-bit console era, and within a month it had sold 500,000 copies. Critics and football fans loved its isometric viewpoint, realistic animations, end-to-end action and spectacular bicycle kicks. “The word ‘classic’ is used too much,” wrote Mean Machines Sega magazine, awarding it 94%, “but anyone who plays Fifa Soccer must concede that this IS football.”

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