“My name is my name” – Marlo Stanfield
Back when the news of EA possibly not renewing the FIFA license broke last fall, the ramifications were still unknown. A game that has been synonymous with FIFA was looking at the possibility of a rebrand. EA had partnered with FIFA since 1993 with its “FIFA International Soccer” title and continued until this year with FIFA 22. Alas, due to the contractual demands by FIFA, which were rumored at the costly price of $250 million per year, EA has announced that it will change its name after FIFA 23 to EA Sports FC. What does this all mean you ask? Well, let’s break it down!
EA And FIFA Divorce
We’ve covered who needs who more here, but it’s worth repeating that due to the popularity of its soccer game, most fans under the age of 40 probably associate “FIFA” with the video game and not the federation that puts together the World Cup and Club World Cup. While neither EA nor FIFA have the most glowing reputations, EA has never been accused of some of the most serious accusations that have been levied against FIFA through the years (of which there are many). Seen largely as a corrupt body only interested in deepening their pockets and influence, FIFA can only been seen as the loser in this battle as sales of EA’s next title likely won’t drop due to losing the FIFA brand. The optimists might even say that EA gains more because the money it is pocketing by not re-upping the license could be put back into the game for the betterment of fans. While it’s highly unlikely that EA will dump the full amount ($250 million) into the next title, there is a possibility that extra funds could lead to such innovations as full cross-play and perhaps even an online career mode, something that neither Konami nor EA has been able to pull off as of yet.
What’s Next For EA?
Not much should change for EA as it relates to its soccer title. While the FIFA name and license does allow for the incorporation of the aforementioned World Cup and Club World Cup, there is little else that comes with license, certainly not enough to justify the $250 million price. Licenses, besides FIFPRO (which grants the use of players and their likenesses), are independently negotiated with the respective domestic leagues and UEFA — all requiring separate contracts. Licenses such as the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League will still be present and available for use both on and offline:
Everything you love about our games will be part of EA SPORTS FC – the same great experiences, modes, leagues, tournaments, clubs and athletes will be there. Ultimate Team, Career Mode, Pro Clubs and VOLTA Football will all be there. Our unique licensing portfolio of more than 19,000+ players, 700+ teams, 100+ stadiums and 30 leagues that we’ve continued to invest in for decades will still be there, uniquely in EA SPORTS FC. That includes exclusive partnerships with the Premier League, LaLiga, Bundesliga, Serie A, the MLS – and more to come.
When it comes down to it, access to those players and leagues is what the community really wants and is part of the reason why EA has pulled away from Konami when it comes to game sales. Next year’s title from EA will still have the 2022 World Cup, but it will be included as part of the normal game instead of either a standalone title and/or DLC. Given how each EA-produced World Cup game has gotten substantially worse, both from the standpoint of modes (how I do miss Road to the World Cup) and national team licenses, we aren’t missing out on too much despite the World Cup being the most popular and watched sporting event. I personally have my doubts that EA will deliver on its promise of great changes for the upcoming deliveries, but it’s an area that I would gladly accept being proven wrong about.
What’s Next For FIFA?
Now that EA and FIFA have decided to part ways, a huge opportunity has emerged for FIFA to explore other avenues for a video game representation of the World Cup and/or FIFA Club World Cup. While I doubt the desire exists within the community for a Club World Cup, there’s certainly enough interest for a World Cup game should FIFA decide to partner with another game developer. With the writing on the wall that EA was declining to renew their deal, it appears that FIFA has already reached out to other vendors about the possibility of making a game.
For the first time, FIFA will launch new football video games developed with third-party studios and publishers, providing more choice for football and gaming fans in the lead-up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ and FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™.
A number of new non-simulation games are already under production and will launch during the third quarter of this year. The first is a tailored gaming experience featuring the biggest event on earth, the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, which will bring new, interactive experiences to fans across the globe.
Yeah, good luck with that as getting a game that can compete with EA’s offering in time for the 2022 World Cup is simply impossible, even if these companies have been working on this game since the initial news broke.
Not to be outdone by EA, FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino channeled his inner politician here:
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. 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.
It will be interesting to see who is partnering with FIFA as 2K is a name that is frequently touted as a company the community would like to see make a soccer title despite the company not having any experience in this market. The years of exclusive licenses could come back to haunt FIFA as it’s only recently that competitors like UFL have even entered the arena — and most have yet to produce a published title.
Will Other Games Follow And Create A Trend?
As gamers, exclusive licenses are always a point of contention. On one hand, the basketball genre benefited for years as 2K and EA battled it out for hardwood dominance, with 2K eventually pushing EA out via a superior product. On the other hand, a game like Madden where EA signed a semi-exclusive partnership, forced 2K out of the market. As a result, the larger community feels as if Madden spiraled downhill shortly after. Unfortunately, the parallels between Madden and FIFA stop there due to the nature of the licenses at play.
While FIFA (the game) utilizes team, league, and/or cup-specific licenses mixed in with the FIFPRO license, Madden utilizes the NFL license, which allows EA to use NFL teams and the NFLPA license to use player likenesses. If you subtract the exclusive NFL license, you’ll more than likely have generic teams with generic uniforms and jerseys. In essence, the FIFA license is just about name first (brand) and content (World Cup game) next. This is what allows EA to walk away from it with the confidence that its bottom line won’t be affected in an adverse way. I’d imagine that given EA’s track record of stripping edit mode of features means that most Madden fans won’t want to play with the “New York Blue” instead of the New York Giants.
It will take some time to get used to not referring to EA’s soccer game as FIFA. It’s been a mainstay on my consoles since I first played FIFA International Soccer back in 1994. Much like Konami rebranding PES to eFootball, change is in the air, and at the end of the day, it’s just a name. Gamers will adapt as we always do, but we’ll be sure to hold EA accountable for all of the innovations and creativity that was promised in its blog.