EA and its FIFA games' shadow have always loomed over Konami's PES games. Even during the years that FIFA games weren't considered very good, they still sold better compared to the PES games, which definitely doesn't bode too well as far as competition goes.
The past decade, in particular, has only gotten worse for PES though. Konami's struggles reflected on the quality of one of its lone remaining franchises that it still takes the time to update almost every year.
Now it's clear that PES is never going to be objectively the better game compared to FIFA, it seems like Konami has decided to tread an entirely different path.
According to the Japanese company's most recent announcement, PES is dead. In its place is a free-to-play live service version, eFootball, which will go live this fall 2021.
What's the difference between PES and eFootball?
Aside from the obvious name difference, eFootball will be a free-to-play platform and use Unreal Engine (instead of Konami's proprietary Fox Engine) with crossplay between PC, console, and mobile players. The game will also be fueled by a DLC model that Konami says will give "players the freedom to build an experience that follows their interest."
One of the biggest revelations about eFootball is what Konami refers to as motion matching. The animation system sounds a lot like what EA is adding to FIFA 22 with HyperMotion.
Unlike EA's offering, eFootball's motion matching is available across all platforms and will provide "more than four times as many animations as before, achieving highly realistic movement." In addition to this, eFootball's roster and features will be updated regularly, so players don't have to go out and buy the latest iteration anymore.
Konami also revealed a post-launch content roadmap for eFootball.
While eFootball does hold a lot of promise, it appears it won't have much content at launch. Players will only have access to 9 clubs and the other modes won't arrive until later on, probably as a paid DLC. Not to mention, there seems to be a plan for a system similar to a battle pass, although Konami didn't go into much detail about what the match pass is going to be like.
Konami's made a ton of weird and downright disappointing decisions in the past. Letting go of Hideo Kojima is just one of them.
However, the decision to drop the PES brand in favor of eFootball isn't necessarily the wrong choice. In fact, it feels more like an evolution (pun intended) of the series, and a much-needed one at that.
The golden age of PES was more than a decade ago on the PS2. Since then, the PES brand has relied on its niche fans to live, which isn't sustainable. But, with its new identity and approach, Konami is hoping that it can start anew.
Hopefully, eFootball does succeed so that EA has an incentive to make FIFA 22 less of a blatant cash cow.