PES 2019 is a brilliant football game – but was badly hurt by the loss of the Champions League.
Sales were down, and the gap between Konami’s flagship football title and EA’s FIFA series widened even more.
If PES is to survive, Konami will need to take drastic action – tackling everything from the game engine to the pricing.
Here we go through what’s needed to make PES a genuine contender again – that’s if it’s not already too late.
Bye, bye Fox Engine?
The last few PES games have been powered by Fox Engine – the same powerhouse behind the recent Metal Gear Solid games.
It’s a perfectly capable engine (it’s hardly breaking a sweat with PES) – offering crisp visuals and consistently smooth framerates.
Sure, the end product is not as glossy as Frostbite-powered FIFA 19, but PES 2019’s graphics are far from ugly.
However, a few years ago, Konami all but turned its back on the engine – with the worldwide technology director Julien Merceron parting ways with the company.
Even the recent Zone of The Enders: The 2nd Runner used an updated version of 2001’s Metal Gear Solid 2 engine!
Merceron reportedly left the company due to the shift from console gaming to mobile – which brings us on to Unreal Engine.
Unreal powers Fortnite, PUBG mobile and other demanding mobile games. On console, it’s scaleable, allowing for true next-generation graphics, better AI and improved ball physics.
Konami may opt to shift to this engine for PES 2020 – allowing for a best-in-class mobile game and a substantially improved console and PC offering.
PES on Nintendo Switch
Sadly, there was no Nintendo Switch version last year – which gave FIFA a big advantage (admittedly, sales of the Switch version at launch contributed to around one per cent of total sales in the UK – so hardly Earth shattering).
Although FIFA on Switch is a solid port, it’s some way behind the other console versions – making it more vulnerable from an attack from PES.
This would especially be the case should Konami move to Unreal – which has been proven to scale well on Switch in titles such as Outlast 2.
Speaking to Eurogamer a while ago, Konami’s Adam Bhatti, said: “I’ve been saying to a lot of people, we have a great relationship with Nintendo – we’ve obviously brought out Bomberman which has done fantastic for the Switch. So as a company it’s a platform that we’re looking at, for sure.
“So for PES it’s just – we never want to say no, we never want to close the door. Let’s see how it goes. Personally speaking, I love the machine. We think it’s definitely performed amazingly well. And we really hope that it continues to do very well.”
There’s a huge untapped market here for PES – and one Konami can’t afford to ignore for much longer.
Improved servers and matchmaking
One of the biggest challenges facing the recent PES games are the servers – with thousands struggling to find a game from the off.
Konami boosted server quality last year as well as refined matchmaking to allow lag-free online gaming.
FIFA is far from perfect, and is often criticised for lag and input delay when played online.
If Konami can keep improving things, it’ll likely win back some fans frustrated with EA’s inconsistent servers.
However, none of this really matters if there are no compelling online modes.
FIFA Ultimate Team is by far the most popular part of EA’s game.
It offers depth and bags of replayability (as well as giving EA huge revenue post launch via the in-game pack purchase model).
PES, meanwhile, has a Become a Legend mode, which has been practically unchanged for years, while the Master League and MyClub modes tend to have minor tweaks.
Thankfully, Konami is taking steps to put this right.
Full 11-Vs-11 online options were joined by a co-operative 2-Vs-2 and 3-Vs-3 modes with support for local guests in PES 2018 (and further improved in last year’s game).
The ‘Random Selection’ match returned, while the Master League implements pre-season tournaments, a new transfer system and pre-match interviews.
More of the above will help PES 2020 become an even more attractive package.
Price isn’t right
This is perhaps the biggest change needed.
At launch, PES was a full-price £40 game – putting it head-to-head with FIFA.
Now it’s essentially being given away as party of the Xbox Game Pass, while a free offline demo is available to download on Steam, Xbox and PS4.
By pricing the game so high, especially now the Champions League is no longer part of the package, FIFA represents far better value for money – even though gameplay wise, it sits behind PES.
Konami must address this – perhaps offering the game at a reduced £20 entry point. That way, gamers can enjoy both titles without breaking the bank.