Late September saw the worldwide release of FIFA 16, the latest edition in the most successful sports video game series of all time. It is the first game in the series to include female players and even features USA's World Cup winner, Alex Morgan, as the US cover star.
The biggest gameplay advancements heralded by EA this year are 'Interception Intelligence' to improve the anticipation of AI and 'No Touch Dribbling' to improve on-the-ball control. As is almost always the case with FIFA, it is widely considered that not much has changed from the previous version. In my view, FIFA has been the most sophisticated sports simulation on the market for a number of years and only requires small refinements to ensure another year's entertainment.
That said, there has been a very significant development which seems to have gone under the radar - and it really is something to get excited about. This is absolutely massive for anybody who plays the game competitively. In my experience, even the casual player thinks they are Messi incarnate when they take to the virtual field, and now is the chance to prove it. FIWC is finally coming to Xbox One.
The FIFA Interactive World Cup is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest gaming tournament in the world, featuring 1,206,517 players in 2015.
Previously, the tournament had been played exclusively on PlayStation and this has left a sour taste in the mouth of those competing at the highest level of FIFA exclusively on the Xbox. This year, in its 12th edition, online qualification is finally possible on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. This could potentially double the number of entrants and put this year's tournament on a never before seen scale. It is almost guaranteed to become the most highly regarded tournament in FIFA (and arguably gaming) history.
You will find the option to participate in the qualifiers in your online game menu as of October 1st - so there's no time to waste. There will be three monthly qualifying windows running until January 1st. Each qualifying window allows you to play a maximum of 90 games, which ensures those at the top of the leaderboard are truly top quality and not just those with the most time on their hands. The top five players each month from each console will qualify for the Grand Final and the chance for the ultimate bragging rights in becoming the world's greatest player.
Gaming on this sort of level isn't just for fun, though. The grand prize of USD 20,000 means it's serious business for anybody worth their salt on FIFA. The winner is also invited to attend the FIFA Ballon d'Or and given the opportunity to meet some of the world's best players - an absolutely priceless experience for anybody who loves the beautiful game.
Saudi Arabia's Abdulaziz Alshehri won the 2015 Grand Final in Munich, as seen by thousands around the world watching live on Twitch and YouTube. That's the sort of pressure you can't quite replicate from the comfort of your own home - so you'll have to be prepared to test both your skills and your mettle. Fortunately, the 2016 Grand Final won't be played until May of next year so you have plenty of time to practice.