What’s up with the FIFA 21 cover art? A four-step critique

FIFA 21 cover art

EA Sports recently unveiled the next FIFA game, FIFA 21. I have to ask: what is up with the cover art?

Now, before I properly begin, I need to address that this feature is in part inspired by a Kotaku article. Incidentally, that’s how I stumbled upon the FIFA 21 cover art in the first place.

With this feature, however, I will go in a different direction than said article. Instead, my focus is a critique of the (Standard Edition) cover art – arguably one of the most defining aspects of every new FIFA. We’ll use the four basic steps involved in art criticism.

Bérets on from this point on, everyone – we’re going all art criticism.

Art criticism, to put it shortly and simply, is the ‘…analysis and evaluation of works of art.’

As for the four steps aforementioned, they are

  1. Look at the obvious: the fact sheet of the piece.
  1. Analyze the artwork: describing the piece in terms of subject matter, color, and style.
  1. Decide on an interpretation: a pretty straightforward interpretation for the intents and purposes of this feature.
  1. Make a judgment call: is the piece, i.e. the cover art, successful in conveying the intended message?

Manageable, right? Here it goes!


Standard Edition

FIFA 21 Standard Edition is the vanilla ice cream of FIFA editions. It’s basic, comes with no added bells or whistles like early access or FIFA Ultimate Team Packs, and most people will choose it and like it just fine.

Look at the obvious

The FIFA 21 Standard Edition cover art features Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappé – a great choice and a great way to celebrate the young (he’s only 21!) Frenchman’s incredible talent and very impressive achievements. The piece is composed of seven elements that slightly overlap each other at the margins and are set against a white backdrop.

Analyze the artwork

The subject matter is Mbappé himself, so the color composition is mostly taking after the PSG home/away kits – blue, red, white. As for the style, it is collage, which is described as a ‘…way of looking at what you are consuming all the time,’ therefore placing even more emphasis on the fact that this is a product that EA is selling.

Decide on an interpretation

Most of the photos that compose the piece show Mbappé as a dominant athlete. They also show a central narrative of him sprinting with the ball, presumably towards the opposing team’s goalpost, and the subsequent thrill of scoring a goal.

The pictures on the right-end complete this image of a goal-scoring Mbappé, at first depicting him with the ball in his hands (which he would then either put back into play after a successful attack or which he would be awarded for winning ‘Player of the Match’) and by later showing him celebrating.

The other two pictures – namely the one in the top-left corner and the one with the goalpost – have the heavy duty of informing that Mbappé is more than just a player and that, respectively, anyone looking at the piece has the potential to follow in Mbappé’s footsteps and become an accomplished footballer.

Make a judgment call

The end result is a piece that, to my eyes, is successful in being the engine that drives EA’s marketing campaign for this game – despite however ugly it may appear at first glance. This is because, ultimately, the cover sets to reiterate that FIFA is a product by which anyone can chase their dream of becoming a professional footballer and the next Mbappé – which is precisely the appeal of playing Career Mode as a player.

Career Mode is, of course, important to EA’s marketing due to the fact that it has often been at the forefront of player criticism leveraged against FIFA. So a complete overhaul would bode well for EA’s tarnished public perception. In fact, a quick glance at both the official website and previews of the game shows that Career Mode is positioned as the main feature and as something that has received a lot of developer attention. 

Of course, bear in mind that this is all my interpretation and understanding of the cover art. It is somewhat likely that I was in some part or even completely off-base. But what do you think of it?

FIFA 21 launches on October 6, 2020 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

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