F1 Ultimate Team: EA’s takeover bid makes new mode more likely than ever
With the gaming giant likely to buy up Codies, could the game mode finally land in F1 titles?
It was a busy weekend for F1 fans, as the final race of the 2020 took place in Abu Dhabi and then news broke that EA has outbid Take-Two for Codemasters.
The $1.2bn offer came as something of a surprise, but perhaps it shouldn’t be that shocking. EA own the licences to create football, NFL, and NHL games. They also have a range of racing games under their umbrella like Need For Speed.
Should the acquisition go through, it could see the ubiquitous “Ultimate Team” mode come into the F1 games. This team-builder, card-collector game mode has taken over FIFA, Madden, and EA’s profit sheet in recent years.
But what would an F1 Ultimate Team even look like?
Legendary drivers & historic tracks
Codemasters has long kept its F1 games strictly to the season in question. While historic cars have come into the game, they are limited to online and exhibition races only. The only tracks that aren’t on the official calendar are short variants of tracks like Suzuka & Silverstone that are already on the game.
With Ultimate Team, FIFA & Madden players get access to some of the great players in the history of the sport.
While F1 has added Senna, Prost, and Schumacher as higher Edition bonuses the last two years, inclusion of F1’s rich history is minimal.
An F1 Ultimate Team would surely let you put Niki Lauda or Nigel Mansell as your teammate, and let you race on tracks like Kyalami or Imola.
F1 2020 introduced PitCoins as an in-game currency for their new Podium Pass and some extra, strictly-cosmetic, unlockables.
While somewhat controversial, those that do not choose to buy PitCoins are not at any competitive disadvantage when they hop online and race.
That is not the story in FIFA & Madden Ultimate Team. There, buying packs with real money helps you build up in-game currency, and gives you many more chances to get the best players possible for your squad.
There is a worry throughout the community that things like a Mercedes engine or aerodynamic upgrades for online competition could become collectible items that you need to spend money on packs to unlock.
Given the recent issues the Utlimate Team mode has had, especially in Europe, that could be unlikely. However, with EA’s model more and more reliant on the profits that Ultimate Team generates it is likely that there will be more micro-transactions in an EA F1 game than a Codemasters one.
The division of the F1 community has been a constant frustration for those that like to play online or sweat time trials.
Were EA to be successful in their Codemasters takeover, bringing in crossplay would be a big way for EA to ingratiate themselves with F1 fans, while also potentially increasing the lifespan of the game each year.
Is an F1 Ultimate Team likely?
EA’s $1.2 billion bid is substantially higher than the one Take-Two made for Codemasters.
Given that they are certainly the bigger of the two companies too, it’s unlikely that Take-Two will be able to match or better the offer.
While an established property in most of EA’s other sports games, introducing a new Ultimate Team to a mostly European player base when courts are consistently ruling against EA seems like a risky step.
It could be that EA uses F1 to roll out an “Ultimate Team 2.0” that keeps the player engaged without constantly dipping into their wallet. Or they could simply give Codemasters the resources to make a even bigger and better F1 game.
It is worth noting that while Codemasters has the F1 licence through 2025 (and with a two-year option to extend), they do still have to jump through some hoops when creating F1 games. Hoops that EA may be unable to remove from their path.
In the end, it is an exciting time for F1 gamers, and while any EA influence is very unlikely to be seen in F1 2021, when it comes to 2022 the game could be a completely differnt beast.