Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has launched a mobile soccer game called World Cup AI League, which is based on a 4v4 soccer strategy game that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) for its characters, cosmetics, and gameplay elements. The game is currently available on Android, and an iOS launch is planned in the near future. Developed by Web3 AI firm Altered State Machine, the game’s open beta version is an enhanced iteration of the World Cup prediction game, which was launched in November.

Unlike other soccer games, World Cup AI League’s characters are cartoonish, brightly colored creatures with the vibe of a Pixar movie or the popular video game Fall Guys. The characters’ movements are controlled by AI, which also determines their respective strengths and weaknesses. Players act as team coaches and owners in a similar way to fantasy football or other sports management games. The game currently offers maps inspired by international locales such as Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Yaoundé, and Seoul.

“Our mission is to lead casual gamers into the world of AI gaming in the metaverse, and with FIFA’s AI League, we are unlocking a unique new opportunity for football fans around the globe to interact with their favorite sport,” said Altered State Machine co-founder Aaron McDonald in a statement.

While the game is free to play, an Altered State representative confirmed that the company is planning to launch an NFT marketplace for the game in the near future. When the NFT marketplace is launched, the game’s characters will be minted into NFTs, and all characters will be represented via NFTs going forward. Currently, the game offers an in-game currency for users to buy cosmetic enhancements for their players, but that currency is not a cryptocurrency due to restrictions from Apple and Google regarding crypto trading.

The NFT deployment will come later because the company wants the user experience to feel frictionless, and doesn’t want players to be overly focused or distracted by the NFT elements. This strategy is becoming more common in the Web3 space amid criticism from gamers, leading some developers to launch games in a traditional “Web2” form first without NFT or crypto elements, and then add them in later.

FIFA, the international governing body of soccer and the organization behind the World Cup, has been involved in the crypto world for some time. It enlisted a crypto sponsor for the 2022 World Cup and launched an NFT platform, along with partnering with other Web3 game studios for World Cup-themed integrations. The World Cup AI League represents the latest move by FIFA to tap into the potential of the blockchain and Web3 space.