Games rivals in World Cup showdown
LONDON, England (CNN) -- It is just as hard for new producers to score with football computer games as it is to win the World Cup proper.
And as the tension mounts in Japan and South Korea, rivals in the gaming industry are squaring up for their own championship, with prestige, profits and stock ratings at stake.
FIFA, world football's governing body, has given its name to the 2002 FIFA World Cup game, which can be played on different platforms, including PlayStations and personal computers.
The branding has established the maker, Electronic Arts (EA), as one of two main players in the computer football game industry, according to analysts. Now the firm is banking on a successful World Cup.
"It is just going to be huge. The World Cup appeals to everybody and our game is the only official FIFA video game with real stadiums and real players," said UK product manager Stuart Lang.
EA is seen to be going head-to-head with the ISS Pro Evolution Soccer 2 game, introduced by Japanese firm Konami last year.
Internet and games analyst Nick Gibson, from London-based stock broker company Durlacher, says it is tough for other manufacturers to break through. "The market is already established with two leaders."
Durlacher says the global games software market was worth about $12.8 billion in 2000. Video games accounted for two thirds of the market with the major players coming from the U.S. and Japan. In Europe, France, Germany and the UK took the lead.
Despite EA's strong position, some reviewers have criticised its previous FIFA 2002 game, which was launched in November last year.
"FIFA 2002 is generally believed to be an average product," said Roland Glover from the communications company Kazoo in London. "But I am sure the new FIFA 2002 World Cup Game will sell well anyway. People have a thirst for games that are relevant and topical, and the World Cup game has both."
Glover added: "ISS Pro is rated as the best, even though it has no licence to the World Cup. The advantage of the FIFA brand is that the market is not limited to one country alone. Almost everybody in the world has heard about the World Cup."
And he stressed the need for quality -- not just big branding. "There is less room for errors in computer gaming. If people buy a turkey, they take it back immediately," Roland Clover said.
The target audience of EA's football computer games are men aged 18-35. But the World Cup computer game is expected to attract children as well.
"Children aspire upwards, and our game is easy to pick up and play," added Lang.
Konami said its Pro Evolution Soccer, played on PlayStation, appealed to another, more specialised audience.
"It is a specialist game aimed at people who already know a lot about football. FIFA 2002 is pitched at the mass market," said Konami's Emily Britt.
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