Martin MacMahon: Canada snubbed from FIFA video game once again

FIFA 14 is out this week, but Canada has once again been snubbed. It's not exactly clear why the game, largely designed in Canada, leaves the red and white out in the cold.
FIFA 14 is out this week, and has plenty of new features sure to excite fans of the soccer game franchise.

But an odd omission remains. If you want to play as Canada, well, you can't.

Most of the players who represent the Canadian national team already exist within the game, so it's difficult to imagine it would be much of a challenge to simply put together a team within the game and slot those existing players onto it.

According to numbers provided to Goal Canada by EA Sports, FIFA 13 was the most successful sports video game ever released, selling 4.5 million units in its first five days. It was the No. 1 selling game in 43 countries on the week it launched.

EA Sports wouldn't release details of its sales numbers in Canada specifically, but given the size of the country it's difficult to imagine it is completely insignificant in the overall sales picture.

If the company had said that Canada simply didn't move many units relatively speaking, while disappointing for Canadian soccer fans, it would be understandable from a business standpoint – however without that information we're left to wonder why the continued omission.

The story only gets more puzzling when one finds out the game is primarily a product of EA Sports' Burnaby, British Columbia, location, presumably primarily staffed by Canadian game designers.

A spokesperson from the company sent this e-mail to Goal when asked for further details on Canada's continued exclusion from the game:

“[U]nfortunately Canada is not in the game. The FIFA team would love to be able to include every club, league and tournament on earth – but sometimes that’s not possible. Licensing teams and leagues is a business decision based on market size and limited resources. Including Canada is something we would certainly look at in the future.”

The company did not reply by deadline to an e-mail requesting clarification on what specific barriers blocked Canada's inclusion. Specifically, did the Canadian Soccer Association hold out for too much money, or did the association not want involvement in the game at all for some reason?

Perhaps it's a world ranking issue, or perhaps the fact that Canada hasn't competed in the World Cup in nearly three decades means they haven't earned the nod. If any of this information was provided as the reason for this nation's exclusion from the game, while still a bit irritating for those who want to represent the red and white virtually, at least we would know the thinking behind the snub.

This article isn't meant to be an attack on EA Sports or its FIFA franchise, which consistently deliver excellent products which entertain and seem to improve year on year.

But as a company with a significant Canadian presence, it can play a role in helping grow the game in this country. As stupid as it sounds, when kids play a game and are forced to represent another country rather than Canada when playing internationally, it could loosen their feeling of attachment to the national team.

Video games, for better or worse, are a big part of children's lives. For anyone who follows the trials and tribulations of the national program trying to convince elite players with mixed loyalties and multiple international options to play for Canada, quite frankly this country needs every edge it can get.

And besides, who wouldn't want to relive some of Canada's recent glorious matches in recent times?

Imagine lining up your favoured eleven men and taking on Honduras in San Pedro Sula, while virtually re-enacting that 8-1 defeat.

Hey, maybe EA Sports has it right with this whole Canada exclusion thing after all.