EA Sports recently announced it would be ending its long-lasting partnership with FIFA after this year’s iteration, rebranding their flagship soccer simulation as EA Sports FC starting in 2023.
EA believes that ditching the FIFA partnership opens them up to be more creative and innovative with the franchise that has dominated the video game soccer simulations space. EA still holds an extensive licensing portfolio, including many exclusive partnerships with top leagues like Premier League, Bundesliga, and MLS. The rebranded title will still have all of the same game modes, leagues, tournaments, teams, and athletes that players have come to expect from the soccer simulation.
For their part, FIFA has pledged to find a new development partner for a soccer simulation game in 2024 and open up the license to other third parties for non-simulation games. FIFA plans to bring to market multiple new games and experiences from a variety of third-party developers and publishers, with the first titles released in the fall in advance of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. FIFA’s new gaming approach is built to broaden the reach of FIFA in gaming and esports, in parallel with their other entertainment efforts to make FIFA more widely available, such as their FIFA+ streaming service.
EA Sports’ FIFA video games have had such a stranglehold on soccer simulations that few have tried to compete with it. How much of that is the FIFA brand and how much is the strength of the games put out by EA Sports? Naturally, FIFA President Gianni Infantino believes the strength is in the FIFA name.
“The FIFA name is the only global, original title. FIFA 23, FIFA 24, FIFA 25 and FIFA 26, and so on — the constant is the FIFA name and it will remain forever and remain the best,” Infantino boasted.
The FIFA brand name itself still holds considerable clout. Globally, FIFA represents the largest sports franchise in gaming. Interpret’s New Media Measure: Global Profiles™ shows that 27% of gamers across 16 countries have played a FIFA game in the past three months (well above the 11% for the next highest sports franchise, NBA 2K), and 11% have watched FIFA esports. FIFA is particularly strong in Nigeria, India, and Brazil.
The battle for video game soccer supremacy between EA Sports FC and a new FIFA entity is about to begin. Is the FIFA name and backing enough to combat EA Sports’ longevity, game development acumen, and established partnerships? FIFA will need to choose its next partner carefully. A veteran developer and publisher with experience in annualized video game sports franchises who doesn’t currently have a soccer simulation, such as 2K Games, is one option. Another could be to partner with Konami’s free-to-play eFootball and rebranding as FIFA eFootball. 2023 should be interesting as these soccer behemoths take their best shot.
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