EA FIFA rebrand? Explaining potential changes to soccer video game franchise
EA FIFA gamers might have to get used to a new name for the biggest sports video game on the planet.
The soccer video game landscape could be getting a fresh new look after EA Sports and FIFA issued statements one week apart that indicate their long-standing partnership may be changing, although neither has come out and said so explicitly. But there’s more than a hint in the messaging.
Why ruin such a good thing after three decades of growing revenues and popular success that created one of the behemoths in the gaming industry? Here’s the latest news and what it means for gamers.
EA Sports & FIFA: What’s happening?
According to a report by The New York Times, talks between EA Sports and FIFA on a new licensing deal have hit an impasse.
With the current agreement between set to expire at the end of 2022, FIFA is looking for a significant increase in its rights fee, with more than $1 billion over four years being floated, the Times reports. That’s nearly more than double the current licensing fee of $150 million per year, which the Times’ Tariq Panja points out is the most lucrative commercial agreement in FIFA’s portfolio.
The Times report also indicates that FIFA is looking to limit the scope of the next licensing agreement, while EA Sports is interested in the opposite. EA wants to widen the FIFA ecosystem to include “highlights of actual games, arena video game tournaments and digital products like NFTs.” The assumption is that FIFA feels it can generate new revenue streams by carving out partnerships that monetize those areas of growth.
What does this mean for gamers?
The game isn’t going anywhere. EA FIFA is the highest-selling video game franchise in history and it has a sizable market share in the soccer space over its nearest competitor, Konami, which has sold 111 million copies compared to EA FIFA’s 325 million as of December 2020. And that’s before the recent release of Konami’s rebranded game, now called “eFootball,” which has not exactly received positive acclaim.
So the EA FIFA community is well-established and engagement only continues to grow. The Ultimate Team game mode resulted in over $1 billion in revenue for EA Sports last year alone.
That means that even if EA Sports and FIFA go their separate ways, the EA franchise should continue to hum along. Take away the FIFA license, which allows EA to use FIFA’s name and logo and the FIFA World Cup competition in the game, and EA Sports still has over 300 other licensing deals with clubs, leagues and players, which should more than preserve the familiar look and feel of the game.
One obvious change would come in the name. It has been nearly 30 years of “FIFA” in the title, dating to the first EA FIFA game in 1993, titled “FIFA International Soccer.” The trademark sleuths have discovered that EA has already blocked “EA Sports FC” as a potential new brand in both the United Kingdom and European Union.
If FIFA lends its name and logo to other companies in the gaming space, it could mean more competition and innovation among developers, which in turn could lead to more choices, better products and lower prices for gamers.
With the rapid evolution of the esports and video game space in recent years, change was probably inevitable even in the case of a behemoth like EA FIFA. Based on its statement, there’s a sense that the world governing body is crafting a new vision and strategy to maximize the growing opportunities and interest.
What EA Sports & FIFA are saying
The highlight of FIFA’s statement is its position that football gaming and esports “needs to be a space that is occupied by more than one party controlling all rights.”
“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,” read FIFA’s statement dated Oct. 15.
EA Sports was out ahead of the news with an Oct. 7 letter penned by EA Sports Group general manager Cam Weber, in which the company was up front about potential changes.
“As we look ahead, we’re also exploring the idea of renaming our global EA SPORTS football games,” Weber wrote. “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.”
More developments are sure to come in the weeks ahead with the timeline for a final resolution reportedly set for the end of the year.
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