A bombshell hit the sports gaming world on Friday when FIFA announced that it was ending its exclusive license agreement with EA Sports.
In a statement, FIFA talked about growing its esports and general gaming portfolio. That statement mentioned the desire of having multiple partners moving forward.
“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,” the governing body said.
This news comes on the heels of stalled talks between EA Sports and FIFA. The current 10-year agreement comes to an end after the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Reports have suggested that FIFA is looking for at least $1 billion every four years as part of a new agreement. EA, on the other hand, doesn’t want to pay that much despite it’s FIFA Ultimate Team netting over $1.5 billion per year in revenue.
The Future of EA Sports Soccer?
Though first glance would have you think it’s the end of EA Sports and FIFA forever, that’s not necessarily the case.
Sources close to the negotiations have told SGO that though this FIFA announcement was expected, it doesn’t signal the end of talks between the parties. According to one source, this just means talks will no longer center around any sort of exclusivity.
“EA Sports knows how much it means to have the FIFA license,” the source said. “The World Cup is a major selling point internationally for the company.”
The source added: “Now they can get a more suitable deal for them.”
That “suitable deal” is another term for a cheaper deal. Under the current agreement, signed in 2013, the company had been paying what equated to about $150 million per year. The new demands from FIFA would jump that to about $300 million per year. Should EA Sports balk for good, the loss of the license would mean no more FIFA World Cup video games from the company nor would they be the presenting partner of the FIFA Interactive World Cup tournament.
While it doesn’t sound like a lot to lose, EA Sports prides itself on having the top licenses available for its sports titles. It’s a big reason why they locked down the exclusive simulation rights to the NFL license and why EA Sports NHL continues to add international leagues. They want to be the top source for every sports fan.
No matter what happens between EA Sports and FIFA, however, the company does have an extended deal with FIFPRO. That license allows the studio to continue to utilize the names and likenesses of thousands of real-world player. The deal, with FIFPRO, however, isn’t an exclusive one. What it does do, though, is keep Ultimate Team alive in some way moving forward no matter what.
What About FIFA?
With FIFA no longer wanting to sign exclusive licensing agreements, there is a lot at stake for soccer’s governing body. FIFA would be able to negotiate and offer its rights to a number of bidders. It would also allow them to shop the rights to the official World Cup games to various studios and publishers.
For example, a hypothetical could see FIFA give the rights to the game for the 2026 FIFA World Cup to a company like 2K Sports while then deciding to give the 2030 rights to, say, Konami. The possibilities are there, leading to what would be more money for the organization.
“FIFA knows what its name means to everyone,” one person told SGO. “The money they could command by not having an exclusive deal with anyone is likely to be more than even what they asked from EA.”
SGO wasn’t able to confirm if FIFA had started talking to other company’s in an official capacity about licensing due to no one we spoke to knowing about any exclusive negotiating windows. That said, we were told that as many as four different publishers are ready to have serious talks with FIFA about future new-gen soccer titles.
One thing we were told by multiple people is that FIFA isn’t shutting the door on re-signing with EA Sports. In fact, they are still quite open to it despite what’s publicly out there. The company just feels things need to change, and exclusivity is no longer in the body’s best interest.
“They could be back after 2022, but there are some hurdles and bad blood to get over first,” SGO was told.
EA Sports released the first FIFA-branded game back in 1993. Barring something major happening over the next 12 months, it seems like the end of the 30-year relationship is fast approaching.