One of the sadder sagas of the year has been watching Konami's once-hallowed footballing series relaunch in a new form: and thus far, absolutely botch it. What was Pro Evolution Soccer is now eFootball and at launch the game just wasn't in a fit state: it may not deserve to have been the worst-rated game in Steam's history, but it's not going to be picking up any prizes either.
The reaction to eFootball was so overwhelmingly negative that even the reclusive Konami was stung into issuing mollifying statements, promising future updates would address major issues and that this was always the plan. It's previously announced some minor delays. Now, it has announced it's changing the plan entirely.
eFootball's update v.0.9.1 is now out across platforms and fixes plenty of bugs, but its release comes with the news that v1.0.0 of the game, i.e. the full release, has been delayed from November 11 to Spring 2022. That's absolutely unexpected, and alongside this delay Konami has withdrawn the 'premium player pack' DLC and issued refunds for all pre-orders.
The full patch notes for v.0.9.1 can be read here, and the sheer length brings home just how much was wrong with this product: everything from my personal favourite "the referee may be shown as being trapped on the surface of the pitch during a match" to players randomly gliding around on the turf.
The bigger news is the delay of what we could call the game's full release. This always felt like part of eFootball's problem in terms of player perception: had it launched explicitly as an early access title or an open beta, expectations may not have been quite so high.
"We have been working diligently towards distributing an update that will bring new content to the game, including a new mode where you can strengthen and play with an original team, as well as support for mobile devices on November 11, 2021," reads a statement from Konami. "Unfortunately, we have concluded that more time is needed to deliver the product in the quality that will meet the expectations of our users and have decided to postpone the delivery.
"We apologise again for the inconvenience. All production staff will continue to make sincere efforts to deliver satisfying contents in Spring 2022. Thank you for your patience."
The 'premium player pack' contained content than can only be used with the 1.0 release, hence its removal from sale and refunds. Players do not need to take any action to get their money back, and Konami says it'll be happening as soon as possible in-line with various platform refund policies. The publisher further says it will ensure that eFootball points (in-game currency) do not expire before the update.
Equally notable is Konami pulling back from the mobile timeframe: "We are announcing the postponement of the update to 'eFootball 2022' for mobile devices from Autumn 2021 to Spring 2022." That is, the currently available app eFootball 2021 (which is not this year's eFootball) will remain in place while Konami focuses on next spring.
It would be easy to sneer at Konami here: but it's arguably done the right thing. eFootball's launch was a disaster, however over-the-top some of the criticism was, and it's in a space where the competition is the super-slick and reliable FIFA series. Faced with player anger at the product and a tight update schedule, the publisher has clearly decided that it can't afford to get the v1.0 update wrong. It will surely take some short-term heat for this but, come next Spring, that will have dissipated and the developer has the chance to make a new first impression. Whether eFootball will be able to turn around such a deficit, of course, is another question: but it's always been a game of two halves.