EA Sports’ $20 Billion FIFA Video Game Franchise Is Undergoing a Massive Change

EA Sports' FIFA22 game boxes.
FIFA22 by EA Sports | Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

If you’re an American soccer fan, chances are you’ve spent countless hours playing one or many of the 30 different incarnations of EA Sports’ FIFA video game franchise.

If you’re an American soccer fan, there’s a good chance you became one because of the FIFA franchise. Even if you’re not a soccer fan at all, you may be among the millions of players around the globe who have spent over $20 billion on the video game at one point or another.

No matter where you fall on this spectrum, you may be sad to know that the EA Sports FIFA franchise is entering its final days.

EA Sports and FIFA couldn’t come to an agreement to keep the video game series alive

In 1993, the EA Sports video game company put out its first soccer game in conjunction with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, better known worldwide as FIFA.

In the nearly 30 years since that first release, FIFA (as the game is now simply known) has become one of the biggest video game franchises in history. There are over 150 million players around the globe, and sales of the game have generated over $20 billion, per the New York Times.

Now, though, after three decades of success, EA Sports and FIFA are dissolving their partnership.

Reports say that, after lengthy negotiations to renew the pair’s ten-year deal signed in 2012, the two sides couldn’t agree. This is despite the fact that EA Sports CEO Andrew Wilson and FIFA president Gianni Infantino sat down face-to-face to try and hammer out a deal.

The issues that the two sides couldn’t find a compromise on include FIFA wanting double the $150 million per year it got in the last deal and the soccer federation’s unwillingness to give EA Sports exclusivity to the FIFA name in the digital gaming space.

The two sides did manage to extend the current deal — which was set to end following the Men’s World Cup in 2022 — to after the Women’s World Cup in 2023, but after that, one of the most lucrative partnerships in the history of video games is over.

So, what’s next for the two parties?

What’s next for EA Sports? 

On the EA Sports side, there isn’t that much that will change outside of the name of their flagship soccer game, although that’s no small thing.

The company will rebrand the game for 2023 and beyond as EA Sports FC.

“Playing FIFA” has become the nomenclature for soccer video games, so rebranding and getting the word out that EA Sports FC is really FIFA 23 will be no small marketing and branding challenge.

However, EA Sports retains the game-play engine that players have come to know and love over the years, and it has deals with most major leagues and clubs around the world. This means that players will still get the same experience and get to play with their favorite clubs, like Barcelona or Chelsea, and their favorite players, like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.

The only substantive change for EA Sports FC within the game will be that they can no longer officially include the FIFA World Cup or a few other FIFA tournaments.

All that said, Andrew Wilson did recently leave the door open to keeping the World Cup in the game through a smaller, non-naming, licensing deal with FIFA.

What’s next for FIFA? 

Ending the EA Sports partnership is a much more questionable deal for FIFA. However, it’s just the latest in a long line of questionable decisions from governing body with multiple corruption scandals in its history.

FIFA already has deals to put its name on several “soccer-themed games,” the Times reports, and so there will be other FIFA games before the year’s end. However, a new FIFA video game, similar to the EA Sports games of the past, won’t be ready to roll out until at least 2024.

FIFA will be absolutely fine in the short term. In November, they’ll kick off their flagship event when the 2022 World Cup is played in Qatar.

However, in the long run, FIFA may find that a little more immediate cash and the ability to slap its name on any game they want isn’t as valuable as the tried and tested success of the EA Sports partnership.

The first sign of problems could come next year when Gianni Infantino runs for his third term as FIFA president.

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