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After much fanfare, Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 finally arrives to incredible reviews – with some critics heralding it as possibly “the greatest football game ever made“. Taking this into account, and with the football franchise having set such high benchmarks for two years running, what some people are wondering is how PES will continue to maintain its consistent standard of quality, especially in the face of new and emerging technologies. And for this, I got to speak to Adam Bhatti (Global Product and Brand Manager for Pro Evolution Soccer series) and asked him as where he sees FIFA‘s arch-rival in five years time… Enjoy!

PES 2017 is coming out on PC, PS4, XBox One, PS3, and XBox 360. Now the previous-gen consoles were hampered by the fact that the Fox Engine wasn’t really designed for the old-gen consoles…

Yes…

Given that Konami have basically disbanded Kojima Productions and the Fox Engine programmer, Julian Merceron, has essentially left, what enhancements have you made to the Fox Engine since his departure, that have enabled you to better utilize the old-gen systems? At the same time, given that Scorpio and PS4 Pro are coming out soon, what are you doing to ensure that the Pro Evolution Soccer series is able to maintain its gameplay and graphical lead in the next half of this console generation going forward?

Very interesting question that, actually. What I will say is about the future, and I won’t be talking about it right now in terms of how we support Scorpio, PS4 Pro, and whatever the NX is. However, we’re really keen on working on these new machines. We’re really keen on looking at the technology and seeing how we can adapt to it. It’s interesting what you mentioned about the PS3 or 360 maybe like hampering those or making those sort of suffer with Fox. I think Fox has been built to be an adaptable engine. It can work on mobile. It can work on PS3, 360, PS4, across gen… Obviously, what kind of quality it will keep when you lower the hardware will always change naturally.

But one thing that I will say is Fox isn’t made by one person, you know. It’s a team of people. Certainly, the lead creator of Fox, Kojima-san has left the company for sure. But that doesn’t mean that the people who helped him build that engine have left. But Fox is also used in PES in a different way. Please don’t forget Fox wasn’t built for PES. So whether he’s there or not really doesn’t impact us because we’re still adapting Fox anyway. We’re still using systems that will allow us to still make it for a football game and make it work. You said one thing which we talk about every day, which is looking ahead, looking for the future. How do we make sure that we are working on the new machines and we are pushing on PS4… For example, we missed the first year because we took a bit of time. I don’t want to take any more time, I hope… Certainly, my aim is to make sure when these new consoles hit, we aren’t stopping ourselves, we’re not waiting a year, we are there day one.

Microsoft recently talked about how they’re speculating that there might not be any more consoles generations. The end of consoles basically. Boxed product sales are also going on the way out… Do you think there will ever come a day when PES will also stop dealing with yearly boxed releases and maybe start doing a Drive Club style season pass?

I think it’s really interesting. I would never say, “never, that that would never happen”. I think the world where it’s going is digital. I think it makes a lot of sense for sports games. But again, I think you’re talking to a company and certainly a team here working on PES, where we still feel like we can do so much more with the engine and actually with the visuals and stuff. And that would need a hell of a lot of confidence in yourself and your game to just do season updates. I hope we get there. That’ll be brilliant because it shows that we’ve nailed everything and all we do is updates. But I do think that’s the future. I don’t think it’s any time sooner. And even though Microsoft say that, I disagree with them with that comment because they’re bringing out Scorpio for a reason. And I think they understand that console gaming is not going to be around for a while. But I think the distribution is probably the bigger question.

What’s the five-year vision for PES?

I think we’ve got a long way to go when it comes to recreating the sport. You’ve always got the new hardware. There’s VR. You’ve got the Scorpio coming out. You’ve got the PS4 Pro. I think the cycles are changing. So for me, the vision is actually to stay ahead, stay ahead of the cycle, because for us we had the six to seven years of bad times of PES. We’ve had two to three years of good times. We need another four or five years of good PES to really make up for that period and for even more people to join us and to feel that PES is a great game. You can’t change minds in one, two, or three years… because you might like PES or you might like FIFA. And if your friends buy FIFA, you’re going to buy FIFA. You need to change everybody’s mind. It takes time. And that’s because we really made a lot of mistakes in the past.

I feel though for the past three years, we are more than making up for it. And I think the five-year vision for PES really is to keep making the best sports game, keep making the best game that we can, staying true to PES, pushing the technology and turning this around. Definitely, for me, I really hope we start to sign up more licenses as well.

Thank you.

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