When I was a child, I played a game called EverQuest, the first commercially successful 3D MMORPG and the only reason a game like World of Warcraft exists. EverQuest became so popular — and so time consuming — it was one of the first games in which players would pay for items or accounts using real-world dollars. But trading in-game assets for real-world money was a bannable offense in the game and scams were rife.
More than two decades later, trading in-game assets is still a bannable offense in most video games. If you get caught selling your Cristiano Ronaldo card in FIFA Ultimate Team outside of FIFA for real money, your account will be banned, not to mention the risk of being scammed because of the unsanctioned nature of the transactions.
Enter GOALS, an upcoming entry into the world of soccer video games, which plans to use NFTs to allow players total ownership over all in-game assets.
Imagine a game that took all the best parts of FIFA Ultimate Team — obtaining players and building that perfect squad to compete against other gamers — without the infuriating parts — microtransactions, mind-numbing grinds — while adding in the ability to profit off your own abilities and hard work. That’s what GOALS wants to be, all while free to play.
It sounds really cool on paper, even if you don’t give two shits about NFTs. It remains to be seen if the developers can deliver the AAA-quality product they’re promising.
GOALS was officially announced last summer after raising $15 million in funding, and recently the developers unveiled details on how it plans to enter the soccer video game landscape that’s been dominated by FIFA since the 1990s. While eFootball (formerly PES) has flopped in spectacular fashion as a free-to-play entity and we still await more details on UFL, another new soccer video game coming later this year, GOALS stands alone in embracing the economic side of sports games.
If you’re like me, you roll your eyes at the mere mention of NFTs — non-fungible tokens. What in the frick are those things? I’m not the one to ask, but I can explain how they’ll work within the framework of GOALS.
GOALS, according to the developers, is focused on gameplay first, attempting to create a fast-paced game that’s fun to play, choosing gameplay over realism when the two collide. It’s a soccer game, but it will be heavily reliant on the meta game similar to FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT). In GOALS, gamers will obtain unique players to deploy in their teams, train those players to have better stats, buy and sell players, customize players and teams with cosmetics and compete with their created team against other gamers.
What makes GOALS different is that every player in the game will be totally unique, using the blockchain to create 1:1 NFTs of every in-game asset. This means your star striker will be the only one of its kind. What’s more, you can buy and sell these assets in game and cash out for real-world money. No more toiling away at creating the best possible FUT squad only to rage quit or start all over when the next year’s edition of FIFA is released. GOALS will be a persistent game, not an annual release.
So it’s FUT you can legally make money off of — I’m interested.
If GOALS has any chance of being a commercial success, however, it must overcome two major hurdles.
For starters, the gameplay has to be fun. It’s one thing to say you’re focusing on gameplay, it’s another to pull it off. There’s a reason no one has overtaken FIFA in the last two decades, and it’s because EA Sports has had years and years to perfect its gameplay. PES had a few years where it was considered superior, but it didn’t take long for EA to incorporate the best aspects of Konami’s game and now PES no longer exists.
The second major hurdle is the fact there will not be real players or teams. One of the most appealing aspects of FIFA’s enduring success is how comprehensive its licensing agreements are, from the smallest clubs in England to the biggest teams in South America (just don’t ask about women’s clubs). What often held PES back — and will be a major hindrance to the success of the upcoming UFL — is the fact not every team/player is included. While FIFA has had the occasional hiccup (like Juventus being represented as Piemonte Calcio in recent years), gamers love FIFA for being able to play as just about any team or player you want.
GOALS is going a totally different route: Instead of licensing players and teams, it’s making unique players, thousands or potentially millions of unique players. When a new player is created for the game (either from creating your first squad or as a reward for in-game challenges but never via microtransactions), that player is given an age, starting stats, potential stat growth and “player DNA,” which makes each player more unique beyond the seven basic stats (pace, shooting, passing, dribbling, defending, physicality, goalkeeping) and is often based on real-world footballers. Players receive stats from 1-99, with the numbers increasing exponentially so the difference between 90 and 91 ratings is far greater than the difference between 50 and 51.
Create your own club, walk through the fundamentals of managing it and build your GOALS legacy. Welcome to the GOALS Club!What are your thoughts about GOALS Club?
Read more at https://t.co/V7JxPtIrk5 pic.twitter.com/DnwddgBOsQ
— GOALS (@PlayGOALS) April 13, 2022
Gamers can improve their players using a finite resource of Training Points, earn better players in game or buy/sell to complete their squad. Gamers who don’t want to have to worry about playing against those who just buy all the best players with real money can opt to only play against first-owned players, to ensure the only players on the pitch were earned by hard work in the game.
A key aspect to all of this is how GOALS plans to combat power creep, a massive issue in CCGs (Collectible Card Games) like Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering and a potential issue if FIFA didn’t reset FUT each year.
If players can just keep obtaining better and better cards, only the best max-level cards will remain viable and there will be no reason to play the game further to improve your team. In GOALS, players age and when they become too old they retire, forcing gamers to find replacements either from the transfer market or training pitch. Gamers won’t lose the value of their old players completely, however, as they’ll become “Legends” at retirement. Each team can play a certain number of Legends in any given match (though the majority must be active players), so you can never totally lose a player. Plus, Legends not in use can be bought/sold like anyone else and traded in via Player Exchange Tasks, which are basically another term for the Squad Building Challenges of FUT.
All of this will be backed by the blockchain, ensuring everything is safe and secure, according to GOALS.
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So how will GOALS make money off this free-to-play game without microtransactions? By taking a cut of every sale of players and cosmetic items. Just as FUT takes a small cut of FIFA coins for every transfer market transaction, GOALS will take its own cut from the sale of in-game assets, using a portion to put back into the game’s community treasury for player rewards but also using most to profit and to pay its employees.
There’s also the completely conceivable possibility the GOALS devs are hoping to sell this technology to incorporate into FIFA or to another publisher with an existing soccer franchise like eFootball or UFL.
There’s much more to the game design you can read here, and there are many more questions to answer — like how the game will combat or reward in-game farmers.
Currently no release date has been set, so we’ll know more about UFL and FIFA 23 before GOALS is available to play. As someone who has poured hours into FUT, the idea of profiting for playing a game is certainly appealing.
That said, it’s hard to get too excited about a game without any gameplay footage yet, and it’s still a long climb for GOALS to be economically viable.
Plus, we here at The18 are focused on an entirely different soccer game coming out later this year: Mario Strikers.