FIFA is one of Electronic Arts most popular titles which is why tongues began to wag once reports that a rebranding might be in the offing. FIFA is the acronym for Fédération Internationale de Football Association and it is the governing body, with few exceptions, of all things soccer.
Now the title of the franchise may be changing because the naming rights agreement with FIFA is coming to an end. The wildly popular franchise kicked off in 1993 but annual iterations began in 1997 with the newest, FIFA 22, released earlier this month. Over nine million copies of FIFA 22 have already been sold and well over 7 ½ million teams have been created.
The first salvo in what is brewing as a possible battle between the longtime collaborators came via FIFA as they are considering licensing their name to other developers who have an interest in teaming up with the previously monogamous organization.
“The future of gaming and esports for football stakeholders must involve more than one party controlling and exploiting all rights.
“FIFA is bullish and excited about the future in gaming and esports for football, and it is clear that this needs to be a space that is occupied by more than one party controlling all rights,” FIFA said.
It should be noted the timing is a bit ironic as the biggest competitor to the FIFA esports franchise is Konami’s soccer game which rebranded from Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) to eFootball and has been released as a free-to-play version and falls under that genre’s digital-only platform. However, the early reviews have not been kind, and much work is needed to do as Konami shifts gears from the traditional console model to the mobile platform that is open to anyone wishing to download the app.
As for EA Sports and what their intentions are going forward is still somewhat unclear. The FIFA franchise is traditionally hailed as the best of its kind and simulations are often run by anyone from the diehard fan to those handicappers who release their free sports picks to paying and non-paying customers alike. The EA developers and engineers spend an enormous amount of time coding the skills, strengths, and weaknesses of every player in every lineup to create a game that is as realistic as possible.
Apparently, FIFA, the organization, has been getting plenty of attention from other companies and they are obviously enjoying the courting process as evidenced by their statement, “Consequently, FIFA is engaging with various industry players, including developers, investors, and analysts, to build out a long-term view of the gaming, eSports and interactive entertainment sector. The outcome will ensure that FIFA has a range of suitable parties with specialist capabilities to actively shape the best possible experiences and offerings for fans and consumers.”
According to a story in the New York Times, FIFA is reportedly seeking in the neighborhood of $1 billion to maintain its exclusivity arrangement with EA Sports and will want that amount every four years to stay faithful. That’s quite a bit more than the $150 million annually it collects from EA Sports in the current pact.
EA Sports had initially been cagey about their response and released a rather obtuse response via a press release, “The future of football is very big and very bright. Our priority is to ensure we have every opportunity to continue delivering the world’s greatest interactive football experiences. Thank you again for your support and feedback on this year’s game.”
However, earlier this month it is reported that EA Sports FC is a brand-new filing with the European Union Intellectual Property Office and the UK’s Intellectual Property Office. No such filings have been found in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
But it appears as though EA Sports is beginning to come to terms with what appears to be an inevitable parting of the ways when Cam Weber, the general manager for EA Sports, said in a prepared statement, “As we look ahead, we’re also exploring the idea of renaming our global EA Sports football games. This means we’re reviewing our naming rights agreement with FIFA, which is separate from all our other official partnerships and licenses across the football world.”
But a permanent split may not be the resolution either. It might be a question of this longtime duo agreeing to see other people which means they could continue to collaborate on a limited basis via special releases. One would think there is too much money at stake for both parties to completely rip the sheets and call it a day.
And while FIFA will likely partner with other organizations, it is highly unlikely that whatever materializes because of it will compare favorably to the juggernaut that is the EA Sports FIFA franchise. Expect to hear more in the coming months as the agreement between the companies terminates at the end of 2022.