LONDON (AP) – The name “FIFA” can evoke images of the World Cup and the greatest players in football, such as Pele, Zinedine Zidane or Lionel Messi. The acronym from the governing body of sport may also remind some of shameless bribery and corruption.
However, for many it is a video game that is synonymous with FIFA.
For three decades, the Swiss football organization has had a thriving mutually beneficial relationship with EA Sports. The annual edition of the video game, along with related products, raised billions of dollars and proved to be so lucrative that FIFA believes it can do even more on its own.
On Tuesday, FIFA broke off a licensing partnership with Electronic Arts Inc., making FIFA23 the latest new EA game involving both parties.
Now they are becoming rivals.
EA will continue to do football games with the best players and the biggest teams, they will just be deprived of the FIFA brand and instead will be called EA Sports FC.
It is confusing that perhaps FIFA24 should also be on the shelves next year because the football corps is determined to go ahead with its own launch.
EA has already begun to emphasize its advantages over FIFA, given that it has the right to show 19,000 players from more than 700 teams in more than 30 leagues playing in 100 stadiums. Manchester United, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain will still be there along with their best players.
“This is the only place where you can get a real, famous and fully representative football experience,” David Jackson, vice president of the EA SPORTS brand FIFA, told the Associated Press. “I think there is an element of potential confusion in the market.”
FIFA’s hyperbole is already trying to undermine EA’s marketing, claiming it is in talks with several competing gaming companies and plans to enter the metaworld.
“I can assure you,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino, “that the only real real game called FIFA will be the best available to gamers and football fans.”
How this will be achieved is far from clear, although FIFA owns the rights to the world’s biggest football show. The World Cup will disappear from the EA game.
“The FIFA name is the only global original name,” Infantino said. “FIFA 23, FIFA 24, FIFA 25 and FIFA 26 and so on are the permanent name of FIFA, and it will stay forever and remain the best.”
Such arrogant talk forces FIFA to realize Infantino’s vision of a game that will usurp the EA franchise, even though it has no rights to participate in leagues such as the Premier League – and the teams that play in them.
“New entrants will face a sharp licensing curve to compete with EA,” said Andrew Morocco, an analyst who covers the digital media sector at investment bank Raymond James.
Football games are big business for EA. The annual report, released this week, showed revenue of $ 6.19 billion.
“We just had the biggest year – ever – for EA SPORTS FIFA games,” EA Sports CEO Andrew Wilson told investors on Wednesday, a day after it was announced that the FIFA deal would close at the end of the year.
A huge portion of the revenue comes from Ultimate Team mode, where customers buy additional content in EA sports games. That brought in $ 1.623 billion in 2021.
“Historically, we have received a significant portion of our net sales revenue from our largest and most popular FIFA game, annual versions of which are consistently some of the best-selling games on the market,” EA told investors.
Starting next year, brand loyalty will be key. Will gamers stay with the EA rebranded product or switch to a competitor that launches FIFA?
This is already a competitive market with eFootball, a former Pro Evolution Soccer game made by Japanese firm Konami. This game is a partnership with Manchester United, although the record-breaking 20-time English champions will still participate in the EA game through a Premier League agreement.
EA has already warned its investors about the risks to its football gaming business from competitors.
“Any events or circumstances that adversely affect our FIFA franchise, such as the quality of products or services, other products that account for part of consumer spending and time, delaying or canceling the launch of a product or service, increasing competition for key licenses or real or perceived risks security may have a disproportionate impact on our financial performance, ”the EA’s annual report said.
EA should gain an advantage over FIFA by retaining its 300 licensing partners, 30 leagues and federations, 700 teams and 19,000 athletes, JPMorgan analyst David Karnowski said in a client note.
“While it’s hard to think that the brand’s shift in sales won’t have any effect, the $ 150 million that can be obtained due to the lack of a license fee from FIFA gives ample room for marketing to raise awareness of EA Sports FC,” said Karnowski. wrote.
Untying yourself from the world of football politics has its benefits for EA. Tensions between the regional confederations led to the fact that the European organization UEFA and the South American counterpart CONMEBOL bypassed FIFA and began their own meeting of champions. In the debut final of the Finalissima on June 1, Italy and Argentina will meet at Wembley Stadium in London. It would seem inappropriate for EA to promote their FIFA game in this match.
“What name would we name on the perimeter scoreboard at the UEFA CONMEBOL event? It is very difficult for us to include FIFA, ”said Jackson, EA’s vice president of branding. “What used to be a springboard for our brand and an accelerator of it many years ago has become less valuable to us over time.”
EA may have just saved the FIFA brand. Adherence to the video game has balanced many fans against the toxicity of the organization of Sepp Blatter’s time after the opening of extensive criminal investigations into corruption in football in 2015.
“If you ask a young football fan what FIFA is, they’d rather say it’s a video game than a global governing body, but I believe that value lives with us,” Jackson said. “We are the main voice in the world of football in terms of interactive entertainment, and we don’t see the world where that has changed.”
Associated Press writer Michelle Chapman of New York contributed to this report.
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