The UFC is the current king of the mixed martial arts scene in real life, and in the video game format where they have the only active franchise. In fact, EA UFC 4 is set to release on August 14 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
The release of the game figures to strengthen the promotion’s grip on this swimlane as it is without competitor for the moment. I say for the moment because I recently spoke with Professional Fighters League (PFL) founder and chairman Donn Davis about the possibilities of his promotion creating a licensed video game. His answers to some of those questions were encouraging for fans of PFL and MMA video games.
A PFL Video Game Seems Like a Certainty
Davis was a part of a group that purchased the first-ever eSports team (Team Liquid), so he’s no stranger to the gaming world. However, there is obviously a major difference in owning an eSports team and being a part of the development or licensing of a branded title.
PFL was founded in 2012, but its first year of operation as an active MMA promotion was in 2018. Unlike the matchmaking formats that promotions like the UFC and Bellator use, PFL has a more traditional sports approach with a season, and a playoff-like elimination format that is more closely related to what you’d see in the NBA, NFL and MLB.
Davis believes that a PFL video game on console has an excellent chance to succeed because of this similarity to popular traditional sports leagues. What are the chances we’ll see a PFL video game for PS5 or Xbox Series X?
“The PFL league format behaves much like the league format in FIFA and in Madden. The console opportunity with the PFL is very intriguing. Now that PFL has established itself, I believe you’ll see us in conversation with those kind of people.”
Real Life. Real News. Real Voices
Help us tell more of the stories that matterBecome a founding member
Mobile Before Console, eSports, and Smart Cage Analytics
That’s encouraging for PFL and MMA gaming fans, but Davis believes the mobile route could be the best approach for the brand initially.
“The free-to-play mobile game opportunity has not been developed by others in combat sports,” Davis said. “The WWE has a very successful mobile FTP mobile game. I think the WWE is a great example of what can be done with PFL, from a FTP mobile standpoint. That’s a different experience, to a different customer. With 5G coming to 5 billion people around the world on mobile phones? I think that is a different and interesting market that can also be tapped into for PFL.”
EA UFC 4 just released their fighter ratings. There was a Top 50 revealed using a star-rating system. I talked to Davis about how PFL plans to approach fighter ratings in its video games.
“Smart Cage measures all fighter data and captures fight analytics,” Davis said. “When we’re looking to link with a mobile game publisher. We’d like to launch a free-to-play mobile game with some in-app purchases. This game could be powered by the data and fight analytics that will provide the smartest sort of real-time Madden ratings, only for MMA. It will become ever-changing. As a fighter’s punches get harder, they will get harder in the video game. As their punches get slower, they will get slower in the game as well.”
The sort of metrics demonstrated in the video above could provide some solid reference for fighter ratings.
Monthly Updates over Annual Release
There is a question as to whether popular sports franchises like Madden, NBA 2K and others will go to a service approach such as Fortnite and Destiny over the annual release format that has been in place for decades. According to Davis, PFL would definitely lean toward the latter.
“Our approach will create an experience that continues to evolve,” Davis said. “We won’t have a 2021 edition and then it’s static until 2022. It would be an ever-changing experience that changes from month-to-month rather than year-to-year like Madden or UFC.”
Many sports gamers are conditioned to look for a new release of their favorite sports titles annually. EA UFC functions on more of a 18-24 release cycle, which might explain why the series seems to grow more than others from version to version.
However, it is interesting to imagine how an MMA game, or any sports title, could function if it was an evergreen release that updated monthly, only delivering major updates, which would be 100-percent downloadable, every 18-24 months.
Can PFL carve the desired niche in the MMA and MMA video game world? As is the case with both industries, it’s all about quality and consistency. PFL has garnered a foundational following through two years of operation and are looking to continue its growth. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the promotion has suspended its season until Spring 2021. No matter how you spin it, that’s not ideal for a promotion heading into its third year of activity.
That could be a hit to the consistency aspect, but in light of what’s happening in our world, it’s an understandable approach.
Perhaps the return of real-life PFL action will be accompanied by an announcement of the promotion’s presence in gaming.
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe