In FIFA 06, there was something called a momentum bar next to each team’s name. The presence of the momentum bar is sometimes brought up as evidence supporting the idea that FIFA has a momentum engine, which manipulates the match by changing the momentum around according to a certain set of rules.
This is, of course, utter nonsense.
The momentum bar was a small indicator showing how well the team was performing at a given point in time.
The mere fact that this was called a momentum bar has let people to suspect foul play:
“I’ve suspected FIFA games incorporated this for ages now, glad I’m not the only one. I thought it may interest you that in Fifa 06 there is a visible momentum bar (shown alongside score bar) which shows your team ‘momentum’ and therefore performance. I always suspected that this feature was developed in the later games but the momentum meter was hidden from view.”
(– Anonymous on FIFA13scripting.blogspot.com)
“evidence [in favor of the presence of momentum] could be that it has literally existed in past fifas through a momentum bar.”
(– Jailhoag on Reddit)
What does the presence of a momentum bar indicate, if anything?
The presence of a momentum bar obviously doesn’t lead to the conclusion that EA is altering the momentum in any way, just as well as the presence of an altimeter in a plane doesn’t indicate that the plane manufacturer is trying to make it crash.
The momentum bar measures the momentum. Measuring and setting momentum are two different things. Momentum is a very natural part of football and other sports, and there could be many reasons why EA measure it. The most obvious is that it could be used to make the commentary more relevant and realistic.
But to conclude or even insinuate that this bar suggests foul play is a really bad example of jumping to conclusions.
FIFA World Cup 10 had a momentum bar as well
As seen in the screen dump below, FIFA WC 10 had a similar momentum bar. As pointed out by /u/BagsOfAbility, stringing enough passes together would fill up the bar, which meant that you could do special skill moves and more powerful shots. So, while it clearly served a purpose, it had absolutely no connection to the current conspiracy theory coincidentally known as “momentum”.