- EA and Fifa have partnered since 1993
- FIFA 23 will include men’s and women’s soccer World Cups
- EA Sports FC will feature more than 300 licences
This year’s entry in the FIFA video game series will be the last to bear the name of world soccer’s governing body after the two parties confirmed they will not renew their three-decade long licensing agreement.
The partnership is one of the longest running and most profitable in video game history, with the Fifa brand used ever since EA’s first ever soccer video game, FIFA International Soccer, was released in 1993.
An extension to the arrangement was signed a decade ago, but the world of video games and the dynamic between the two organisations has changed significantly in that time. For many younger players, ‘Fifa’ is a video game brand first and a governing body second, while EA Sports’ FIFA Ultimate Team mode now generates billions of dollars in revenue.
It is understood that EA considered Fifa’s proposed licensing terms too restrictive, while Fifa is understood to have wanted to double its licensing fee of US$1 billion.
Given the Fifa licence does not include the rights to any player likenesses or competitions beyond the Fifa World Cup, EA considered this too high a price to pay for what ultimately amounts to a name, albeit a very famous one at that. The company believes its vast array of other agreements with the likes of Uefa and the Premier League, coupled with high awareness of its brand and a highly-engaged player base, mean it can go it alone.
The next entry in the series, FIFA 23, will be the last to have the name of world soccer’s governing body, with EA Sports FC becoming the title for EA’s future simulations of the sport. It will include more than 300 licences and feature 19,000 athletes, 700 teams, 100 stadiums and 30 leagues around the world – more than enough, it says, to digitally recreate the world of soccer.
“Our vision for EA Sports FC is to create the largest and most impactful football club in the world, at the epicentre of soccer fandom,” said Electronic Arts chief executive Andrew Wilson. “For nearly 30 years, we’ve been building the world’s biggest soccer community – with hundreds of millions of players, thousands of athlete partners, and hundreds of leagues, federations, and teams. EA Sports FC will be the club for every one of them, and for soccer fans everywhere.
“We’re thankful for our many years of great partnership with Fifa. The future of global soccer is very bright, and fandom around the world has never been stronger.”
The dissolution of the partnership is a blow for Fifa financially but will also limit how effectively it is able to communicate with younger fans at a time when video games and eSports are a vital engagement tool. No other soccer video game developer possesses the scale or resources that EA Sports does, with only Japanese developer Konami able to offer any competition in the past decade.
The governing body said it was working on several non-simulation soccer games and that it was keen to work with third party developers on a simulation title to be released in 2024. It said the new strategy would be developed in conjunction with that of its recently launched direct-to-consumer (DTC) platform Fifa+.
“I can assure you that the only authentic, real game that has the Fifa name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans,” said Fifa president Gianni Infantino. “The FIFA name is the only global, original title. FIFA 23, FIFA 24, FIFA 25 and FIFA 26, and so on – the constant is the Fifa name and it will remain forever and remain the best.”
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