EA Sports and FIFA announced that their partnership spanning over 20 years will come to an end in the summer of 2023.
After months of negotiations regarding an extension of their current partnership, the two sides were unable to come to an agreement on future terms. While the current contract expires after the 2022 World Cup, EA Sports and FIFA agreed to extend the current deal through the FIFA Women’s World Cup in July and August 2023.
The EA Sports video game has grown into one of the most successful video game franchises of all-time, with over $20 billion in game sales alone, plus the valuable FIFA Ultimate Team game mode which is valued at approximately $1.2 billion annually.
Following the expiration of the deal, the game will become EA Sports FC. While the name will be different and the aesthetics of the game could change, there is little about the game’s structure or gameplay that will fundamentally change after the separation.
Meanwhile, FIFA is now free to build up its own stable of video game products and expand its offering of “FIFA”-branded gaming products to involve other developers and non-simulation games that stand apart from EA Sports FC.
Why did FIFA and EA Sports split?
According to a report by Tariq Panja of the New York Times, there are a few reasons why a deal could not be reached between the two sides.
The report states that FIFA was seeking double the current licensing fee ($150 million annually) in addition to putting parameters on the license in order to allow it to pursue partnerships with other video game developers using the same “FIFA” brand. EA Sports was not on board.
“We have literally spent hundreds of millions of dollars building this and you’re telling me that Epic Games can come in and get a license to the name that we have built and that we have put front and center and that has become synonymous with games?'” said Peter Moore, a former head of EA’s sports division, to The New York Times.
EA Sports, meanwhile, wished to explore further expanding the game under the “FIFA” brand, including the use of actual game highlights and new digital products like NFT’s, according to a separate New York Times report.
Clearly, the two sides had different visions for the future of the game, and the video game company believes it can live without the partnership though it’s not been ruled out that the two sides could still figure out a way to work with each other to a lesser extent.
FIFA video game’s new name: EA Sports FC
The upcoming installment of FIFA 23 will be the last under the partnership between the two entities. The new game, usually released in the September-October timeframe, does not yet have a cover athlete.
After that release, all future games will cease using the FIFA name or branding, and the World Cup will also cease being a part of it as an official FIFA event. Instead, the game will be renamed EA Sports FC.
“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,” said EA Sports in the company’s official statement. “We are committed to ensuring the next FIFA is our best ever, with more features, game modes, World Cup content, clubs, leagues, competitions, and players than any FIFA title before.”
What is different about EA Sports FC?
As of now, not much is expected to be different about the new iteration, aside from the name.
While the game has lost the FIFA brand, EA Sports has separate deals with 300 clubs and leagues around the world, allowing the player names, clubs, and competitions to continue existing in-game after the change.
“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,” said EA Sports in its release. “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.”
Several of those leagues have already made it clear they’re sticking with EA Sports. The Premier League is one of the leagues with an individual licensing deal and its chief executive Richard Masters left no doubt about what the future looks like: “EA Sports is a long-term and valued partner of the Premier League, and we look forward to continuing to work together in the new era.”
A licensing deal also exists with European governing body UEFA, meaning the UEFA Champions League branding will also be part of EA Sports FC.
The only licensing that disappears with FIFA’s departure is that of national teams and the World Cup. However, there is still the significant possibility that EA Sports can strike a licensing deal with FIFA despite the separation of full game branding.
“We’d love to continue to represent the World Cup through the game,” said EA Sports chief executive Andrew Wilson upon announcing the split, suggesting the two sides could still come to a smaller agreement for future branding.
Clubs & brands around the world back EA Sports FC
After the announcement, clubs around the world also took to social media to back EA Sports in the new venture.
Clubs, leagues, and brands, from the biggest to the smallest, all simultaneously published posts with similar language announcing their participation in the new video game. It’s clear that any future competitors to the EA Sports behemoth will have their work cut out for them.
FIFA to create its own video games
In a statement also released on Tuesday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino announced that the soccer governing body is already in the developmental stages for new video games with other developers and partners, expanding into other areas of the virtual reality and gaming space, and creating competitive products to rival the new EA Sports FC.
“A number of new non-simulation games are already under production and will launch during the third quarter of this year,” the statement read. “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.
“Following this initial unveiling, FIFA will launch further games and virtual experiences around this year’s FIFA World Cup. Additional projects are also under discussion with publishers ahead of next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, in a scathing remark clearly directed at the new EA Sports venture, also suggested that the governing body will now be leveraging the brand name that video game fans have recognized throughout the decades.
“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,” Infantino said in the statement. “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.”
Infantino clarified that the new agreement with EA Sports through the 2023 Women’s World Cup is for “the simulation football category only, freeing up broader gaming rights for FIFA and different gaming publishers to launch new games and more deeply immersive experiences for fans and football stakeholders.”
FIFA stated it will work with “a range of partners” which tracks with the claims EA Sports made about FIFA’s desire to end exclusivity in the negotiation process.