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Konami's bold move to free-to-play

The Japanese publisher has announced they are ditching PES for a free-to-play alternative called e-football.

Japanese publisher has announced they are ditching PES for a free-to-play alternative called e-football.

Konami has announced that they will be replacing Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) with a free-to-play alternative, eFootball. The game will be available on PC and five different consoles, allowing for cross-play. This transition and global rebranding will bring the end of PES after 26 years.

The Japanese gaming publisher claims that the game's new technology called Motion Matching will elevate the gameplay experience. The game developers also worked closely with Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique. The new game is labelled as “a new global brand for a global audience” due to its cross-play feature.

Why the rebranding?

Konami's bold move to replace its long-running PES series with eFootball highlight's the publisher's focus on the esports market and their desire to level the playing field.

Their competitor is Electronic Arts (EA) who develop and publish the more popular football game SERIES, FIFA. As a result of the many official licenses EA has acquired, Konami has struggled to obtain popular teams and players which would entice gamers to play PES.

EA has dominated the football gaming market for a long time and has now sold about 325 million units, making FIFA the highest-selling sports video game franchise in history. Whereas Konami reports that the Pro Evolution Soccer series has sold more than 111 million copies worldwide as of December 2020.

Licensing agreements

One of the key reasons behind EA's dominance in the football gaming market is the abundance of licenses they possess. EA spends between $100m and $150m on partnerships and licensing annually, whereas Konami spends between $30m and $40m.

Licensing provides significant value to the game series as big stars and teams gather attention from GAMERs around the world. When EA announced that they lost their licensing agreement with Cristiano Ronaldo, shares of the company immediately slid 3.28% (or £660m).

Konami has since also snatched up licensing agreements with Napoli who are exclusive to eFootball from next year, Juventus and Roma.


When you compare PES and FIFA, there is one stand-out feature of FIFA that has allowed for their domination in the market - Ultimate Team.

The gaming company introduced Ultimate Team in 2009 on PS3 and Xbox 360, which quickly became the main selling point for millions of gamers.

This feature allows players to build teams using any players from all the leagues to play offline and online. This gave EA an advantage which saw their sales going through the roof. In 2018, FIFA had sold over 12 million units, whereas PES struggled to sell a million.

Ultimate Team proved to be a big earner during lockdown, after announcing that in July 2020, the company saw its revenue from the Ultimate Team feature had risen 70% for the first quarter compared to the same quarter in 2019. However, the feature has been criticized for creating a pay-to-play system, which sees games that spend more usually win more. It's no wonder that Konami took a dig at the pay-to-play Ultimate Team by describing eFootball as "a fair and balanced experience for all players".

Free to play

Since the emergence of Fortnite, game developers and publishers have steered towards developing free-to-play games (FTP). FTP games have risen in popularity due to the lack of a price barrier, which makes for an accessible and cheap experience.

This also means that more players will try the game, which increases the chances they are to recommend it to friends and other gamers. More players increase both ad revenue and micro transactions.

Whilst they may be FTP, they sure are lucrative. According to SuperData's year-end report, FTP games generated $88 billion in 2018.


Fortnite is a FTP video game set in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested world. The game was created by Tim Sweeney and published through Epic Games Inc. in 2017.

In its first 10 months, it gathered 125 million players and cleared $1.2 billion in revenue. Nearly all of the revenue is generated by micro-transactions in the game. Players can make in-game purchases that usually enhance their gameplay experience, for example, costumes or tokens.

Fortnite was kicked off the iOS App Store in August after Epic built a payment system into the game that would allow it to bypass Apple's 30% fee for App Store purchases. Epic sued Apple immediately and is now engaged in a legal battle over alleged anti-competitive behaviour and practices.

A document made public due to the legal proceedings with Apple, showed that Fortnite brought in more than $9 billion total for Epic in 2018 and 2019.


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