Women’s soccer is coming to ‘Football Manager,’ but it will take a while

Football Manager developer Sports Interactive has a history of inclusive gameplay, and that now extends to women. The company has revealed that it's adding women's soccer (aka football) to its management sim. This will likely be a "multi-year" project, SI warned, but this also isn't a simple character model swap. The studio wants to offer the same kind of depth it has for men's sport while accounting for the differences between players and leagues.

There will be new models and databases, of course. However, SI noted that it also has to account for different league rules, gender differences in text translations (the most expensive part of the project) and tweaks to different player attribute systems. The company also has to decide whether or not it accounts for certain practical realities of women's soccer, at least at first — does it factor in menstruation and pregnancy, for example?

The team recently hired coach and research expert Tina Keech to lead its women's soccer efforts, and there are already motion capture sessions underway.

The expansion will likely prove costly. SI expects adding women will "cost millions," and it's looking for sponsorship deals that could help fund the project. However, the company believes there's a moral imperative to add women to the game — it wants to "smash" the glass ceiling for women's soccer and help it get the same attention given to men's leagues. In other words, Football Manager will be part of a larger sports equality campaign that includes games like FIFA as well as better TV coverage of real-world matches.

Pro Evolution Soccer will become ‘eFootball’ in free-to-play shift

Konami's cult Pro Evolution Soccer series is trying a new tactic in its endless duel against FIFA. To stand out from its bigger rival, the soccer franchise is adopting a new name, eFootball, and going free-to-play on consoles, PC and mobile. 

Clearly, this isn't a one-off. Konami has rebuilt the game using Unreal engine as part of the shift to providing a digital service. The biggest change to gameplay is the new "motion matching" technology designed to make player animations more realistic. Gamers will choose from different movements in real-time during matches. Seeing as the original Pro Evo's gameplay is what helped to distinguish it from FIFA, motion matching could prove a make or break feature.

As you'd expect from an F2P title, eFootball will regularly receive new updates after its launch this fall. Konami will have to tread with care, however. Free-to-play games have attracted the ire of players and regulators alike due to their exploitative nature, best summed up by loot boxes that cost real money to obtain. The last thing the storied developer wants is to sully Pro Evo's name. Maybe, that's why it's changing it. 

But, the news will probably raise alarm bells for fans. Konami said that only "local matches" featuring FC Barcelona, Juventus, FC Bayern, Manchester United "and others" will be available for free at launch. While, certain game modes will later be sold as optional DLC, "giving players the freedom to build an experience" that matches their interests. It's a major risk that Konami is banking on to restore the franchise as a regular feature in dorms and living rooms around the world. 

The game will land in early fall with cross-generation matchmaking between current and last-gen PlayStation and Xbox consoles. Later in the fall, you can expect a managerial-style team building mode, online leagues, and a match pass system that rewards you with items and players. At the same time, cross-platform play will be introduced between consoles and PC. The winter will see the release of mobile controller support, full cross-play including mobile and the launch of professional and amateur eSports tournaments.

PS4 ‘cryptofarm’ reportedly used bots to grind in-game FIFA currency

Earlier this month, officials in the Ukraine busted what appeared to be a cryptocurrency mining operation that used thousands of PS4 consoles to mine crypto. That doesn't quite seem to be the case. According to a new report, the consoles (and allegedly stolen electricity) were actually being used to farm and sell digital currency and accounts for EA's FIFA games.

Ukranian news outlet Delo reported that PCs were running bots on the consoles to play FIFA and automatically earn an in-game currency. Players can use FIFA coins in the Ultimate Team (FUT) mode to either scoop up sought-after players on an open market or open controversial FUT packs in the hopes of unlocking killer additions for their squads. FUT packs can also be opened with real money.

Although buying or selling FIFA coins with real money is against EA policies, that hasn't stopped a thriving black market for the digital currency. People sell coins or game accounts loaded with the currency to players who are desperate to build a dream FUT roster. One site I checked listed a PS4 FIFA 21 account with 5.1 million coins for $300.

Ultimate Team modes across EA's sports games are enormously important for the developer's bottom line. Last year, EA made $1.62 billion from Ultimate Team, which accounted for 29 percent of its net revenue for the fiscal year. "A substantial portion" of that revenue came from FIFA games.

Meanwhile, FUT packs and other loot boxes have drawn scrutiny from regulators in recent years. Since gamers can't see which soccer players they'll unlock when they buy a pack, some authorities have described the packs as a form of gambling. Belgium banned that type of game mechanic in 2018. This summer, perhaps in an attempt to stave off the criticism, EA started testing a type of FUT pack that allows players to preview the contents.

PS4 ‘cryptofarm’ reportedly used bots to grind in-game FIFA currency

Earlier this month, officials in the Ukraine busted what appeared to be a cryptocurrency mining operation that used thousands of PS4 consoles to mine crypto. That doesn't quite seem to be the case. According to a new report, the consoles (and allegedly stolen electricity) were actually being used to farm and sell digital currency and accounts for EA's FIFA games.

Ukranian news outlet Delo reported that PCs were running bots on the consoles to play FIFA and automatically earn an in-game currency. Players can use FIFA coins in the Ultimate Team (FUT) mode to either scoop up sought-after players on an open market or open controversial FUT packs in the hopes of unlocking killer additions for their squads. FUT packs can also be opened with real money.

Although buying or selling FIFA coins with real money is against EA policies, that hasn't stopped a thriving black market for the digital currency. People sell coins or game accounts loaded with the currency to players who are desperate to build a dream FUT roster. One site I checked listed a PS4 FIFA 21 account with 5.1 million coins for $300 — enough to buy

Ultimate Team modes across EA's sports games are enormously important for the developer's bottom line. Last year, EA made $1.62 billion from Ultimate Team, which accounted for 29 percent of its net revenue for the fiscal year. "A substantial portion" of that revenue came from FIFA games.

Meanwhile, FUT packs and other loot boxes have drawn scrutiny from regulators in recent years. Since gamers can't see which soccer players they'll unlock when they buy a pack, some authorities have described the packs as a form of gambling. Belgium banned that type of game mechanic in 2018. This summer, perhaps in an attempt to stave off the criticism, EA started testing a type of FUT pack that allows players to preview the contents.

‘FIFA 22’ brings more realistic soccer to next-gen consoles on October 1st

EA isn't just giving Madden NFL players an upgrade if they play on next-gen consoles. The published has unveiledFIFA 22, and its centerpiece is a new "HyperMotion" system that reportedly provides more realistic animation and gameplay when you game on a PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S or Google Stadia. The technology uses machine learning to produce animations in real time, leading to more "organic" movement. HyperMotion also let EA capture motion for pro soccer (aka football) players competing at full tilt, including superstars like Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappé.

The game is also coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC (via Origin and Steam). A FIFA 22 Legacy Edition is coming to the Nintendo Switch, although EA didn't outline differences.

Thankfully, there are other substantial changes regardless of what platform you use. EA has hinted at a "complete" revamp of the goalkeeper system, a new club creation experience in Career Mode, "reimagined" Volta Football and a FIFA Ultimate Team Heroes item set that represents the tales of legendary players.

FIFA 22 will be released on October 1st for all supported platforms.

As with Madden, it's apparent EA isn't completely ready to drop support for previous-gen consoles. That's not surprising given both the larger player base and shortages that limit the number of PS5 and Xbox Series owners. However, it is clear that the gaming giant wants to offer a strong incentive to play on newer machines. Don't be surprised if FIFA 23 cuts off PS4 and Xbox One players.

Arsenal is the latest soccer team to feature in Amazon’s ‘All or Nothing’ docuseries

Amazon is reportedly turning back to the UK's Premier League for the focus of its next All or Nothing sports documentary. Deadline has learned the new series will cover Arsenal as it plays the League's 2021-2022 season. The documentary deal hasn't been finalized, according to the site's sources, but Amazon, Arsenal and production company 72 Films all confirmed the plans.

The Gunners' documentary will debut on Prime sometime after the season in 2022.

 Whether or not it's an exciting series is unclear. Arsenal is a legendary team, but its current roster hasn't produced top-tier results. It finished the 2020-2021 season in eighth place and bowed out of the UEFA Europa League (below the Champions League) in the semis. It does have a rising star in the form of midfielder Bukayo Saka, though, and Deadline pointed out that the team finished the Premier League season on a strong note. Arsenal might make for a good comeback story, then.

Amazon has diversified the scope of All or Nothing over the years to include three soccer teams, New Zealand's All Blacks rugby squad, a range of American football teams and soon a veteran hockey team (the Toronto Maple Leafs). The strategy, however, has remained the same — Amazon is determined to be a go-to source for sports shows and give you a reason to subscribe to Prime Video instead of (or alongside) rivals like Netflix.

Call of Duty League is bringing fans back to live events

Sixteen months after the last event with a live crowd, the Call of Duty League (CDL) is once again opening its doors to fans. The Stage V Major tournament takes place at the end of the month, and it will host the league's first live matches with fans since March 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down everything.

All 12 CDL teams are expected to take part in the tournament, which runs from July 29th to August 1st. It takes place at Esports Stadium Arlington in Texas, home of the 2020 season champs Dallas Empire. Fans will be able to attend during the final two days, with a weekend pass costing $59. The league returned to in-person events without fans last month.

The CDL and the Overwatch League (OWL), both of which are run by Activision Blizzard, planned to hold matches in each team's home city in 2020. That format didn't last long before the leagues were forced to shift to online-only play for the season. That was a significant blow for both, but perhaps more so the CDL, which had only just started its first season. Esports are far more enjoyable with a crowd, and the future's looking rosier for live events.

OWL, meanwhile, is running a few events with fans in China this season. Envy Gaming, which owns Dallas Empire and OWL's Dallas Fuel, held an event at Esports Stadium Arlington last month with the Fuel playing on stage and Overwatch League fans in attendance.

YouTube will stream the UEFA Women’s Champions League for free

Soccer fans around the world will be able to watch the UEFA Women's Champions League for free over the next two seasons. YouTube will stream every game from the competition in 2021-23. It struck a deal with UEFA and sports streaming service DAZN, which snapped up the broadcast rights to the UWCL for the next four years.

With the exception of the Middle East, North Africa and China and its territories, fans everywhere can watch all 61 games (not including qualifying rounds) live and on demand on DAZN's YouTube channel during the upcoming two seasons. In the following two seasons (2023-24 and 2024-25), DAZN will stream every game live on its own platform, which is now available in more than 200 countries. You'll still be able to catch 19 matches per season on YouTube.

The broadcasting deal will get into gear amid a new format for the UWCL. UEFA is introducing a 16-game group stage this season, similar to the format of the men's Champions League. Previously, it was a two-legged knockout competition with a one-off final. The group stage for the 2021-22 edition starts on October 5th.

This is a chance for soccer enthusiasts in most parts of the world to catch some of the best players on the planet in action without having to pay an extra penny (as long as they have a decent internet connection and device on which to watch YouTube). The deal should give the UWCL more exposure than in the past, and it could perhaps inspire more kids to take up the sport.

Streaming services have been duking it out over soccer rights for years. This is a significant deal for DAZN, as well as whatever sports ambitions YouTube has. CBS and Paramount+ hold English-language broadcast rights to the men's version of the competition in the US. Univision's TUDN airs games in Spanish.

ESPN+ lands Belgium Pro League rights to boost its soccer lineup

ESPN+ has bolstered its impressive soccer credentials by adding yet another league to its stable. Its five-year deal with the Belgian Pro League gets underway this weekend with three live games: STVV vs. Zulte Waregem on Saturday, and Sunday’s double...