For millions of fans around the world, the word FIFA is not synonymous with football’s governing body.
But instead. it is most commonly associated with the most successful video game franchise of all time.
However, EA Sports has announced that FIFA 23 will be the last in its long-running series and will be replaced by a new title.
The company said the newly titled EA Sports FC will offer the ‘same great experiences, modes, leagues, tournaments, clubs and athletes will be there’ including Ultimate Team, Career Mode, Pro Clubs and VOLTA Football.
Jonathan Beales, gaming expert, told talkSPORT: “I think this is the biggest cultural split, probably since the Beatles!”
So how did we get to this point? talkSPORT.com takes a look…
EA Sports made their first FIFA game back in 1993 but it wasn’t for another three years until authentic player names were introduced.
The franchise would continue to grow each year with improved graphics and gameplay as well as licenses to continually add new leagues, teams and players.
Then in 2009 came the introduction of Ultimate Team, which raked in £1.15 billion across EA’s catalogue of games in its annual report for 2020.
The most obvious reason why FIFA and EA Sports struggled to renegotiate their long-standing deal – money!
Although it was always a lucrative partnership for both sides, FIFA the organisation had noticed those rising profits and were chasing at least double the $150 million licensing fee it gets annually from EA Sports.
EA could have afforded this, but that licensing fee only accounts for the title FIFA and their events such as the World Cup – not anything else.
In the company’s new franchise EA Sports FC, they would retain its league, player and stadium naming rights.
Those agreements include ones with UEFA, which runs the Champions League, and the world’s biggest clubs including the likes of Liverpool and Real Madrid – who have already publicly showed their commitment to partnering EA rather than FIFA.
FIFA plan to find a new partner to launch further games and virtual experiences in the lead up to both the women’s and men’s World Cups.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said: “I can assure you that the only authentic, real game that has the FIFA name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans.
“The FIFA name is the only global, original title.”
The problem with whoever proves to be FIFA’s new partner is the lack of Premier League licensing can limit what they can do.
EA’s statement announcing its break from FIFA also included statements from the heads of the German and Spanish leagues.
“If you’re breaking a relationship that goes back over 20 years there will be consequences,” said Gareth Sutcliffe, a senior analyst in the video games sector at Enders Analysis told New York Times.
“EA will continue to motor on: They have got all the technological smarts, the creative implementation of an absolutely fantastic football game — and it really is fantastic. But what do FIFA have? Their name. And then what?”
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Now unfortunately for fans, it wasn’t just as simple as FIFA being greedy and EA refusing to shell out a bit more money.
Both parties were also unhappy with the terms of their long-standing agreement, with EA looking to capitalise on the recent boom of Esports.
Without FIFA’s restrictions on what their name is associated with, EA are now free to offer a range of other experiences.
This is likely to include the ability to watch real-life matches and play Fortnite-like in-game events, according to the BBC.
“The world of football and the world of entertainment are changing, and they clash within our product,” David Jackson, vice president of EA Sports, said.
“In the future our players will demand of us the ability to be more expansive in that offering. At the moment, we engage in play as a primary form of interactive experience.
“Soon, watching and creating content are going to be equally as important for fans.
“Under the licensing conventions that we had agreed with FIFA 10 years ago, there were some restrictions that weren’t going to allow us to be able to build those experiences for players.”
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And the straw that broke that proverbial camel’s back was FIFA’s demand to expand its brand to other digital products.
However, EA Sports made it abundantly clear they weren’t prepared to share their name in the video game market.
Peter Moore, a former head of EA’s sports division, told The New York Times: “I’m going to say, ‘Wait a second: We have literally spent hundreds of millions of dollars building this and you’re telling me that Epic Games can come in and get a license to the name that we have built and that we have put front and (centre) and that has become synonymous with games?’”
As a result, EA Sports put stock in their legions of fans and extensive licensing agreements with the world of football to create future games that will remain FIFA in all-but name.
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