By Rishi Iyengar, CNN Business
One of the video game industry’s most iconic franchises will soon look very different.
Electronic Arts and its subsidiary EA Sports will end a three-decade partnership with FIFA — global soccer’s governing body — the gaming company announced on Tuesday. Starting next year, the hugely popular FIFA video game franchise will be known as “EA SPORTS FC.”
“This new independent platform will bring fresh opportunity — to innovate, create and evolve,” Cam Weber, EVP and group GM for EA Sports & Racing, said in a statement. “EA SPORTS FC will allow us to realize this future and much more … but not before we deliver our most expansive game ever with our current naming rights partner, FIFA, for one more year,” he added.
EA will still retain most of the team and player likenesses that have made its game so popular, thanks to separate license agreements with global soccer leagues in England, Spain, Italy, Germany, the United States and European soccer association UEFA.
Electronic Arts’ stock was essentially flat following the news.
FIFA said in a statement that it had granted EA a one-year extension to release the FIFA 23 video game later this year, which will feature the upcoming men’s and women’s World Cups that FIFA organizes. But the governing body will now seek to develop new games with “third party studios and publishers” in the next two years and is in talks for a “major new” FIFA game in 2024.
“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,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in the statement. “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.”
While EA Sports owns several other popular video game sports franchises, including Madden (American football), NHL (hockey), the PGA tour (golf) and Formula 1 (racing), the company says FIFA is by far its biggest money maker.
“FIFA is our largest and most popular game and franchise,” the company said in its latest annual report last year. “Revenue from our FIFA franchise, including the annualized console and PC game which is consistently one of the best-selling games in the marketplace … is material to our business and will continue to be so.”
According to the New York Times, the FIFA franchise has generated more than $20 billion in sales over the past two decades. EA declined to comment to CNN Business on the game’s revenues. In its annual report, the company said it has “historically derived a significant portion of our net revenue” — which totaled nearly $7 billion in the company’s last fiscal year — from FIFA.
In his statement on Tuesday, Weber thanked the “incredible community of more than 150 million fans” for building FIFA into the “world’s biggest [soccer] entertainment platform.”
The gaming company on Tuesday also touted an endorsement from global sporting behemoth Nike.
“We are excited to continue and expand our long partnership with EA Sports as we serve athletes at the intersection of sport, gaming, and culture,” DJ van Hameren, Nike’s EVP and CMO, said in a statement shared by EA. “Our partnership with EA SPORTS FC will authentically grow the ways our communities can play and engage with sport.”
— CNN’s Kevin Dotson contributed to this report.
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