There is a saying that goes along the lines of the only things certain in life are death and taxes. You can add another item to that short list: EA Sports will release an annual installment of its ever-popular FIFA video game series. FIFA 23 is coming to a PC and console near your around September, and it will be the last Electronic Arts title to feature the famous FIFA name.
FIFA International Soccer launched on the Sega Mega Drive almost 30 years ago on December 15, 1993, and was an instant hit. It was the first football game that used an isometric view instead of a top-down, side view or bird’s eye view of rival games. The game only featured national teams, and the players had made-up names, but it topped the sales charts for six months, keeping the legendary Street Fighter II off the top spot.
The FIFA games have come on in leaps and bounds since those early days and are barely recognizable. Motion-captured players bear a striking likeness to their real-life counterparts, and the current FIFA 22 boasts more than 700 teams from over 30 leagues and over 17,000 players waiting for you to control them. Sure, the series’ Ultimate Team continually drags the FIFA name through the mud, with the loot boxes containing players being akin to gambling at online sportsbooks. Still, nobody can deny the EA and FIFA partnership is one made in footballing heaven.
The long-running partnership between EA Sports and FIFA ends with the yet-to-be-launched FIFA 23 game. EA teased the potential changing of the guard shortly after FIFA 22’s release in October 2021. A statement on the EA website said, “As we look ahead, we’re also exploring the idea of renaming out global EA Sports football games. This means we’re reviewing our naming rights agreement with FIFA, with is separate from all our other official partnerships and licenses across the football world.”
Relationships between EA and FIFA last year when world football’s governing body asked EA for more than double its current fee to have the FIFA name on EA’s games. Industry insider quoted figures in the region of $1 billion for a four-year cycle. FIFA knows EA made $1.62 billion from Ultimate Team during the 2021 financial year and wanted a larger cut of that astronomical take.
Executives at EA balked at the idea and decided to part ways with FIFA in order to launch what will be known as EA Sports FC from 2024 onwards. However, it was not only the money aspect that had EA running for the hills.
“Money plays a crucial role in most negotiations,” David Jackson, EA Sports’ vice president, told the BBC. “But the reason we are doing this is to create the very best experiences we can for both players and partners. As part of that, you consider whether or not your investment in one place is better or worse than an investment in another.”
“On balance, over time, we felt that our investments were better suited in spaces that were most important to players, like the different experiences we can now build in the game. For our partners, it’s the way we can welcome and engage them into a platform that talks to 150 million young football fans around the world.”
Although disappointing to see the FIFA video series end after three decades, it is difficult to see how the new EA Sports FC will not succeed. EA still has image rights and deals with the major European football leagues, in addition to now having at least half a billion dollars to invest in the product that it does not have to pay to FIFA. Everything points to EA Spots FC being a major hit. As they say, the King is dead; long live the King.