It’s no secret that Brazil loves soccer. Our team was once the strongest in the whole world and throughout the years, brought home many World Cups. And more than playing it on a field, the thing Brazilians love the most is playing some soccer games. Getting a bunch of friends together for an afternoon championship, each person in charge of their favorite team competing for nothing except the right to brag. With each goal, there was excitement; with each penalty kick, tension; and with each victory, there was screaming. Lots and lots of it.
But when I say favorite teams, I’m not referring to the International teams. No, I’m talking national here. All sorts of selections, from all across Brazil, way before game companies started doing it officially. How did we do it? Easy.
Mods. The answer is mods.
The history of soccer mods in Brazil is hard to grasp. The practice is as old as the console where it started, the PS2. More specifically, 2002, when the console was officially released on Brazilian lands. Back then, the distribution of games via the Internet wasn’t for everyone, only a few people had access to quality connections that would make it worth the trouble. Namely, the street markets, where you could get your hands on games and consoles of dubious origin. They would download them and burn DVD copies to sell, and they do a pretty good job at it too. While the DVDs are simply labeled with a marker, they go the extra mile to print the game’s cover and slap it inside a plastic bag. This was mainly due to necessity: most people bought games based on hearsay and cover art, so it needed to be visually appealing.
Yes, piracy was a big deal back then, games on the gray market costed a tenth of their original counterparts, and consoles could cost a fifth if you were lucky enough. And leading the charge of the wooden leg culture was the PS2: easy to jailbreak, easy to use, and with one of the most legendary games libraries ever conceived. If you were a kid with jailbroken PS2, you were spoiled for choice. And this is where the mods enter the scene. As far as archiving goes, the first examples of people modding their soccer games go back to 2002. The majority of them were distributed in local gray markets or locadoras, and because of this, every region of the country had their own spin on the formula. Nearly all of these are lost to time, but the select few that made it to the net spread throughout the whole country. And amongst them, one soared higher than the rest: the Bomba Patch.
Unlike every other mod, the Bomba Patch actually has a documented origin story, even if I could only find a single source that I can’t verify it in depth since I’m not an actual journalist, but it will do! The story begins in São Paulo, 2006, in the municipality of Mogri Mirim. Much like any other place, the kids held regular soccer championships amongst themselves, using the Brazukas mod build on the Winning Eleven 10. The tournament lasted seven months, with complex rules and around 20 teams competing. You could even partake in some parallel cups. But the mod wasn’t being updated fast enough for the taste of its public, so a group of people decided to take matters into their own hands. Thus, in 2007 the Bomba Patch was born, taking its namesake from a mixture of flour, yogurt, and chocolate that people threw at the tournament winner, possibly as a consolation prize.
It’s important to note that these sorts of localization mods had a lot of work put into them. Editing models, textures, the cheers and chants from the crowds, the flags, narration; anything you can think of was replaced with an appropriate Brazilian counterpart. Some even went above and beyond, making custom soundtracks and intro videos. Because of this, it’s understandable that a group of amateurs would take their sweet time getting pumping content. This is the thing that gave the Bomba Patch its rise to fame: the weekly updates, that were made available in a local locadora. It wouldn’t be long until its fame started spreading, appearing on gray markets and the internet itself. The mod became a phenomenon.
It’s hard to put into numbers just how popular the Bomba Patch became. Because these are essentially mods that people sold on the street (the legality of which is not in this blog’s scope to discuss), it’s impossible to get any sort of hard data on the sales figure. What I can tell you, is that in my locadora there were six copies of the latest Bomba Patch for each copy of FIFA/PES/Mega Man Soccer (God I miss this last one). People only played the vanilla editions when forced to. And my locadora was a run-down garage, just imagine what the situation was in the big parlors!
In 2008, the mod’s trajectory would come to a halt, thanks to the original team splitting to go their separate ways. An expected ending that befell most of the mods, but fate had a different plan for the Bomba Patch. Sometime after the split, one of the members of the original modding team (Geomatrix Games) named Allan, was taking a stroll through the city of Guarabira and decided to check a local game store. Much to his surprise, he discovered that the latest edition of the Patch was the store’s best-seller and that people really wanted more updates. After some back and forth, Allan let it slip that he was the part of the original team and the store offered to sponsor the mod.
People loved it, and so did the store. The many ads inside the new versions encouraged people to check out the place, and who could say no to more money, right? But without the original team to take care of development, the solution was to teach new people how to do the work. Thanks to this, the mod’s community became this amalgamation of smaller teams that contribute to each other’s work. If one team had already done some assets, others were free to use them in their own version of the Patch, and that definitely helped with the development. After that, the Patch never stopped. The PS2 may be discontinued, but it is still the main console to play the mod. As the time of writing, the mod has hit its 86th (!!!) edition, and it’s also available on the PSP, the 360 (as a modded PES 2013) and the PS3/4 (as a mod for PES 2018/19 respectively).
Twelve years ago, the Bomba Patch redefined how kids experienced their soccer games. Hearing the familiar voice of a beloved narrator, escalating the ideal members for your dream team full of your favorite players, doing recreations of legendary matches, and so much more. It’s the sort of thing that words alone cannot do it justice, you simply had to be there to get the full experience. Given that, it’s not hard to understand why it continues to be popular: even now, it’s not feasible for an official soccer game to appeal to a single, specific market. So these types of fan-made localization have a huge popular appeal and with the frequency of updates the Bomba Patch continues to receive—they go as far as changing player haircuts just to keep their 100% updated motto—coupled with how easy it is to get a copy, it’s no wonder it rose above the rest. Even if it does have some questionable balancing decisions every now and then, the Bomba Patch continues to mix our love for soccer and videogames like nothing else in the market, delivering an unmistakably Brazilian experience.