The world got its first football NFT unicorn last year when France’s Sorare has raised a huge round of $680 million. Now a Swedish startup is also betting on the football-NFT combination to achieve success.
Gaming company GOALS is building a multiplayer soccer game where users can own players as NFTs. It positions itself as an alternative to the iconic football video game series FIFA. And despite very few gameplay details and a plan not to license real players, it just raised a $15 million starting round.
“You have a huge incumbent in a monopoly position. They are not innovative in terms of gameplay. They focus on revenue,” said co-founder and CEO Andreas Thorstensson of FIFA. †FIFA has 25 million users†
“There, a startup has the chance to actually beat them. But we want to do it a little differently.”
Thorstensson says the company will have a rough internal version of the game ready this summer with a full product in two to three years.
The round was led by Northzone and previous investors Cherry Ventures, Moonfire Ventures and Banana Capital. Several high-profile angels also took part, including FC Barcelona star Gerard Pique, co-founder of Axie Infinity and COO Aleksander Larsen and the Sorare co-founder himself, Nicolas Julia†
So what’s really different about FIFA?
For the uninitiated, video game giant Electronic Arts has spent nearly three decades trying to emulate football in the FIFA video game, allowing users to play with real-life football players and clubs or create new teams. The game’s obsession with realism is so strong that they have a network of data reviewers to ensure that player stats such as stamina are realistic and up to date.
GOALS will be different in a number of ways. Firstly, it is not intended to license the use of real football players, given the enormous cost. Football’s governing body, FIFA, has been given a makeover $150 million in 2020 from licensing, mainly to the video game of the same name. While Sorare has no real gameplay – it’s a fantasy football platform – it also has expensive partnerships with dozens of the world’s top football leagues and clubs, allowing it to “coin” NFTs from popular players.
Second, GOALS does not attempt to copy the highly realistic, high-definition gameplay that characterizes FIFA. Thorstensson says GOALS has “a more arcade-style approach” and will “sacrifice the simulation aspect of FIFA”. That should make it more appealing to a wider audience, not just diehard football fans, he says.
GOALS released a trailer for the game, as well as some photos of the shoes, but they give very little detail about what the game might look like in reality.
While both platforms will allow players to earn and purchase in-game assets, GOALS says it also plans to give players the option to cash out their loot for real money — something that isn’t possible with a game. as FIFA. GOALS users can buy assets for sale by other users, either on the open GOALS marketplace or supported third-party marketplaces.
Users who own their GOALS players also offer the option to export them to other platforms or games, which is not possible with a game like FIFA.
It is also important to note that GOALS is not the only company trying to beat FIFA. There’s Pro Evolution Soccer (now eFootball) and scrappier small players, such as UFL from Strikerz Inc†
Community and Diversity
Unlike traditional video games, GOALS wants its player community to be involved in the game’s development from the start. It has a group of 8,000 fans on Discord and plans to give them access to early versions of the game for feedback, similar to how mobile games are developed.
Thorstensson also says he wants to make sure the game itself appeals to the widest possible community. One of their early hires was an inclusion lead,
“When I Played” [FIFA] with my daughters, they used to ask me why they couldn’t play as a woman,” he says.
“A lot of games aren’t the best in terms of diversity and inclusion. It doesn’t make sense from a financial point of view because there’s a huge potential market, but from a human perspective it doesn’t make sense either.”
GOALS is part of a new generation of Web3 companies emerging in Europe† Many are using blockchain technology to decentralize ownership of elements of their platform and involve fans more closely in product development – in stark contrast to so-called Web2 platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.
Gaming companies like unicorn Axie and GOALS have been key innovation drivers in technology like NFTs, which investors say is a precursor to more mainstream applications.
Zipped FIFA fans Jonathan Sinclair and Kai Nicol-Schwarz contributed to this article.