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Will FIFA 21 be cancelled? Why the coronavirus lockdown threatens to ruin release date

9:09 AM EDT 4/15/20
FIFA 20 Zidane
Real-life football has been indefinitely suspended due to coronavirus, but will the best-selling video game suffer the same fate?

Every year, EA Sports releases a new edition of the FIFA video game series. 

For the past 10 years, each version of FIFA has been released the last weekend in September and EA Sports had pencilled in that same date for the launch of FIFA 21.

With the coronavirus pandemic affecting every aspect of life around the world as well as causing the suspension of all major football leagues and the postponement of the 2020 European Championship, there is a possibility that FIFA 21 could also be pushed back.

How has coronavirus affected FIFA 20?

The coronavirus pandemic has already had a major impact in competitive esports, with EA Sports forced to suspend the FIFA 20 Global Series and cancel numerous events in the FUT Champions Cup calendar.

As the games are played online rather than at events, eMLS has continued while many other leagues have started tournaments between real-life footballers to raise money for charities fighting Covid-19.

The absence of real-life football has also impacted some of the in-game promotions and events in FIFA 20, with no more Man of the Match or Player of the Month special items being released, while Team of the Week has been replaced by Team of the Week Moments which uses historical performances to provide player upgrades.

The Marquee Matchups Squad Building Challenges (SBCs) have similarly been replaced by Marquee Matchup Moments, looking back at classic games from previous seasons.

Could FIFA 21 be delayed by coronavirus?

The video game industry has not been impacted in the same way as many other sectors due to the coronavirus pandemic because the majority of staff working on games can do so remotely.

However, product sales and game launches have been affected. E3 was set to take place in June but the biggest games event of the year was cancelled for the first time in its 26-year history.

FIFA 20 was announced at E3 2019, so fans of the game will be eager to see if anything is confirmed by EA during June about FIFA 21.

Other games have been delayed already, with the Last of Us Part II pushed back from its scheduled May 29 release date. Developers Naughty Dog explained the decision, citing logistical reasons for the indefinite delay of one of the Playstation 4's biggest 2020 launches.

"Even with us finishing the game, we were faced with the reality that due to logistics beyond our control, we couldn’t launch The Last of Us Part II to our satisfaction," a statement read. “We want to make sure everyone gets to play The Last of Us Part II around the same time, ensuring that we’re doing everything possible to preserve the best experience for everyone.”

With many other games being pushed back, there is the possibilty that FIFA 21 could also be delayed, perhaps as far as November where it would coincide with the launch of the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X.

After shutting down its offices in Shanghai, Singapore, Seoul and Milan, EA advised all its employees in North America, Europe and Australia to work from home. It has since re-opened its Shanghai and Singapore offices and is determined that the coronavirus will not affect their planned schedule, stating in March that they "don’t anticipate major changes in our games or services as a result of our teams working from home."