The FIFA series is a product of one of the biggest sports-videogame collaborations in today’s market. The franchise is widely recognizable with gamers and football fans worldwide and has become a household name in video games and pop culture. This partnership was made possible for over thirty years due to a licensing agreement between two respected heavyweights in their fields, publisher Electronic Arts and the overall football governing body Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). However, the current renewal of this deal is at a stalemate, and a likely ‘split’ between these companies is approaching.
With the FIFA license in the balance, let’s look at why this deal could end. How does it affect Electronic Arts, and what companies could pick up the FIFA license?
EA and FIFA’s Disagreement
What else could cause a wealthy couple of thirty years to divorce? Money. EA Sports FIFA is one of the most profitable titles in Electonic Arts’ sports line-up. Last year’s release, FIFA 21, generated 1.34 billion dollars in the latter months of 2021. This number, of course, is combined with sales revenue and microtransactions from EA’s controversial Ultimate Team mode.
So why stop after thirty years? Why not continue to make a massive amount of money together? Simply put, FIFA wants ridiculous funds to renew the licenses. FIFA has requested roughly 1.2 billion USD over a four-year cycle. That price is double what Electronic Arts currently pays for the FIFA License.
How Does The Split Affect Electronic Arts
If Electronic Arts chooses to part ways with the football governing body, the loss, in my opinion, is minimal. The video game publisher would only lose the ‘FIFA’ branding and the rights to the FIFA World Cup. Ongoing rights to clubs, stadiums, players, and leagues would still be intact, and EA is fully aware of this.
“We focus so much energy on the collective strength of over 300 individual licensed partners that give us access to 17,000+ athletes across 700+ teams, in 100 stadiums and over 30 leagues around the world,” said Cam Weber, Vice President of Electronic Arts.
Retaining these licensed assets is possible due to the publisher’s current deal with the FIFPro, which deals exclusively with players’ likeness, names, and numerous leagues. So, in the case of EA Sports FC, the game wouldn’t change much in terms of appearance.
Who could acquire the FIFA licenses?
If FIFA wants to continue making money from its name in the gaming world, it would have to venture out to other publishers. If you think about major companies publishing sports games right now, only a handful of publishers come to mind.
Konami has had its fair share of issues over the last couple of years. After the company split with video game designer Hideo Kojima in 2015, the company took a nosedive with releases like Metal Gear Survive. However, the real issue with Konami in the sports gaming world is the state of its football game, eFootball 2022. The game was moved to a new engine, stripped of its fan-favorite modes, and re-introduced as free-to-play.
Given that FIFA wants roughly 300 million USD per year for its licenses, I don’t think Konami will benefit from it much. eFootball 2022 is in a rebuilding phase, and Konami mainly needs to focus on the game’s core gameplay. Adding expensive branding and the FIFA World Cup wouldn’t bring enough players to recoup the deal’s initial cost. Overall, it would be an awful deal for Konami to commit to, and eFootball 2022 is still trying to find its identity as a free-to-play sports game.
One of the biggest publishers over the last ten years has been 2K. The American publisher has many amazing titles it supports, like Bioshock and Borderlands. However, 2K is a sports powerhouse with NBA 2K, WWE 2K, and with a recently acquired NFL deal, the company has been given the green light for non-simulation football games.
2K will be the most likely suiter to acquire the FIFA licenses. This deal would be appealing to 2K and its parent company Take-Two Interactive. Creating a “FIFA 2K” series with the World Cup attached to it would excite fans of a possible rivalry with EA Sports FC. The NBA 2K series has been praised for its in-depth “My Player” mode and the additions it endured over the years. If 2K brings this flagship model to the football world, it would be a breath of fresh air for gamers.
The question here with Electronic Arts is: would these two companies find a way to make a deal happen? Unfortunately, EA has gone public with its ambition to move forward without FIFA’s naming rights.
“We’re exploring the idea of renaming our global EA Sports [soccer] games. This means we’re reviewing our naming rights agreement with FIFA.” – Cam Weber.
Last year, Electronic Arts filed for the EA Sports FC trademark and is prepared to split with FIFA. Since everything is out in the open about EA’s intentions, I don’t see the two companies agreeing on an extension. In my opinion, Electronic Arts doesn’t need FIFA to keep creating one of the most popular sports games in the world. The money that FIFA is asking for just for naming rights outweighs the assets the deal includes. We are eager to see what Electronic Arts and FIFA do in the future and what new games will come out of this massive split.