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FIFA 2014 Still to be Without Female Players

The FIFA Soccer franchise from EA Sports is one of the world's best selling videogames, and this year's edition will still be without female players or teams.

Stacey Neve

How would you like to be able to kick back, relax, and play a game as Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair, terrorizing opposing defenses, or go overseas and control Megan Rapinoe as she runs rampant on the flanks in France?

Well, too bad.

According to an article from Kotaku, the FIFA series will once again be without the women's game, despite the inclusion of female players in the NHL and Tiger Woods PGA Tour series, both also from EA Sports. The main point of the article can be found in this quote from FIFA executive producor, David Rutter:

"As a team we have discussed at length the inclusion of female characters in FIFA, and whilst it's something that remains on our list of features for consideration as part of our mission statement above, we do not have plans to put female characters into the game this year."

The FIFA team has, according to Kotaku's article, been considering the inclusion of female players since at least last year.

Fernanda Schabarum, a Brazilian living and working in South Florida, last year opened an online petition to demand women's inclusion in FIFA. It gained enough attention that David Rutter, the series' executive producer, met with her. "He said it's going to happen at some point, and he hopes EA is the one to do it, and do it right," Schabarum told Kotaku last year.

Fernanda Schabarum's petition can be found here.

Looking back at a previous article from Kotaku, one from 2012 that focused on Schabarum's petition to FIFA, a similar amount of commitment to the women's game was shown by Rutter then. Here is Rutter on the regular inquiries about the possible inclusion of the women's game in FIFA:

"The same answer then is the same answer now," Rutter said. "Every year, a vast quantity of suggestions for inclusion comes into our studio. We have to whittle it down to what we can make in one year. It's a case of prioritizing what needs to be done, and then we do our best to knock it out of the park in whatever we're doing. But [women in the game] is always something considered in some shape or form, and it's not to say it won't ever happen."

In both cases, talking first to Fernanda Schabarum and second to Kotaku, Rutter is unwilling to say that the inclusion of female players in the world's highest selling sports franchise is something that EA is even considering.

This lack of definitive language leaves even more to be desired in light of the fact that on Tuesday EA extended their exclusive deal to provide FIFA-branded video games through 2022.

Electronic Arts' FIFA series has been a tremendous boon to soccer's popularity in the US. Before most Americans had regular access to international leagues or even realized a domestic league existed, the FIFA series was quietly planting the seeds for today's soccer ubiquity. One of the key factors contributing to the success of the game was the low cost of licensing and using players' likenesses, in comparison to other popular games like Madden NFL.

With the FIFA series having topped 100 million copies sold in 2010, and more recent editions continuing to break sales records around the world, the inclusion of women's soccer in upcoming editions of FIFA could have a similarly profound impact on the women's game. Even better, EA wouldn't have much in the way of licensing costs to worry about.

Although no Thorns players were available for comment on the issue, it is apparent how much seeing oneself in a video game can mean to a player. Last September I chatted with the Timbers' Andrew Jean-Baptiste on the subject of seeing himself in the latest edition of FIFA:

It is a great feeling, seeing myself in the game, because not many players can ever say that. It's not something easy to achieve.

I can't imagine many of the Thorns would disagree.

Andy Wheeler contributed to this article.