- FIFA is making its own football simulator after ending its 30-year collaboration with EA, but this decision will backfire.
- The governing body’s new title won’t be able to dethrone EA Sports FC even with the globally recognizable branding.
- Lack of experience and the short period to develop the game will make competing with EA Sports’ refined product very challenging.
- The American publisher is also in talks to acquire major licenses like the Premier League, making it an uphill battle for the new FIFA.
Football is arguably the biggest sport and one of the most popular sources of entertainment on the planet. Besides a few countries, it is the most widespread sport in every region of the world. Millions of people play it every day, and billions tune in to watch its biggest event, the FIFA World Cup Final. Over 1.5 billion people watched the 2022 edition’s final, which is almost 20% of our planet’s population.
When a piece of entertainment is this well-liked, it diversifies from the original medium into other profit-oriented enterprises. There are movies, TV shows, merchandise, toys, clothing lines, and countless other stuff based on football. All of these properties are commercial endeavors that bring in more money for the sport. And, the third-party adaptation of football that has been the most successful in this venture is video games.
There are several gaming franchises based on the beautiful sport that release games every year. Pro Evolution Soccer (now called eFootball), Rocket League, and Football Manager are all universally popular football games. Many new developers are also making football titles for the future like UFL from the European studio Strikerz Inc.
But, without a doubt, the biggest and most profitable video game entrenched in the sport is none other than EA’s FIFA series. The first title in the franchise, called FIFA International Soccer, came out way back in 1993 and as they say, the rest is history. FIFA has become very prevalent not only in the sports genre but also in the gaming industry as a whole.
It has evolved into a cultural phenomenon all around the planet, breaking sales records everywhere. FIFA 12 is still the fastest-selling sports title of all time, selling 3.2 million units in a week. The most recent entry in the franchise, FIFA 23, is also set to become the best-selling FIFA game in history. Hence, the hype and cultural impact of the series has only increased even decades later.
Since its first release 30 years ago, the series has become the best-selling sports video game franchise in history. It has sold a staggering 325 million copies in three decades, putting it at No.7 in the highest-selling video game series of all time list. Considering how only mega franchises like Mario, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, and Pokemon are above it, FIFA has cemented its legendary status in the gaming world.
But, the historically significant video game series is splitting into two parts from this year onward.
Why FIFA And EA Are Going There Separate Ways
You would expect FIFA and Electronic Arts, the two entities behind the franchise, to continue making the games together considering their success. But, the American publisher and football’s prime governing body have failed to reach an agreement regarding the use of its brand name. Reports suggest that FIFA wanted $1 billion every four years to let EA use its universally known title.
However, EA considered these monetary terms a bit excessive and instead decided not to renew its license with FIFA. As a result of this disagreement, both of these parties are going their own separate way from July 2023 onwards. EA is going to continue making football simulation games, but they will be called EA Sports FC from now onwards.
On the other hand, FIFA is going to take its globally recognizable four letters and put them on another video game developed by a different studio. David Jackson, the Vice President of EA Sports, said that fans will only miss the FIFA name and the World Cup mode every 4 years in the football title. Other things will remain the same and this corroborated what EA CEO Andrew Wilson had said about the partnership previously.
Even though the company is wrong about FIFA just being four letters on a box, it doesn’t mean the federation has the upper hand. For sure, EA is underestimating the brand’s recognition and value among everyday consumers. But, the publisher is also the only party that knows how to consistently deliver a money-making football simulator yearly.
Hence, FIFA’s new game with this mystery new developer is not going to dethrone EA’s dominance in the genre. In my opinion, EA Sports FC will reign supreme and I will give reasons for why that is.
FIFA’s New Football Game Won’t Topple EA Sports FC
As I mentioned before, FIFA has a widely popular trademark name that everybody is accustomed to on its side. It’s possible that many buyers won’t care about the developing studio and will just pick the most recognizable football game. That soccer title has been called FIFA for the last three decades and, as the stats above show, has dominated the genre.
Hence, it won’t be wrong to assume that some of that appeal and a part of the fan base will shift to the new studio’s game based on the FIFA branding. But, that will only last so long in this modern era of information if the game is a hot mess. Word gets around very quickly in this age of social media, especially about gaming. Even if fans don’t care about their favorite football simulator changing developers, they will mind if it’s bad.
EA Has More Experience
The household FIFA name can only get the federation’s new title goodwill up to a certain extent. And, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that making a sports game from scratch isn’t easy. For this very reason, I think the brand-new FIFA will not match up to EA Sports’ long-running series. Even though it is losing its trademark branding, the studio has been making successful football simulators for 30 years.
Its position as the genre’s leading product in 2023 isn’t the result of a year or two of game development. But, it is the amalgamation of developing mechanics, new ideas, and much more over a few decades. FIFA 23 has so many features to make the game feel like a realistic sim that you would need a separate article to list them in detail.
EA added gameplay mechanics like HyperMotion2 and Technical Dribbling among other features in FIFA 23 to further improve the realism. And, this is in addition to the physics of the football sim the studio has been refining every year over 39 mainline entries. Therefore, Electronic Arts has the experience and the knowledge to make a thorough soccer game every year.
I am not even talking about the game being good or bad, that is subjective. But, a FIFA video game needs to contain all of the gameplay elements to successfully simulate a football match. EA Sports has them because it has been working on the franchise even before the inception of PlayStation. Hence, to assume that FIFA’s new developer will be able to reach the level of EA’s soccer simulation in just 2 years is absurd.
For sure, whoever this studio is, they will be able to create an in-depth football game with the right resources. But, it won’t be as detailed as EA Sports’ title because it just hasn’t had that much time to evolve. Of course, I can be proved wrong and the new FIFA game can reach a new level of sports realism in video games while being a timeless masterpiece.
But, the logical odds are stacked against the federation, especially if it hires a developer not affiliated with sports games. Game development isn’t easy, especially when your main competitor has been dominating the genre for three decades.
EA Is Already Making Moves To Fend Off FIFA
In addition to all of that, Electronic Arts has already started to contact the biggest leagues for exclusive licensing. The American publisher has been negotiating with the Premier League to enter a licensing partnership for the next 6 years. EA Sports is paying a mouthwatering sum of $588 million, or $96 million per year, to the widely popular league for its rights.
To put it into perspective, this sum is twice as much as the previous deal between the two. Hence, the company is leaving no room for failure in its quest to retain the rights to the planet’s biggest football league. If you aren’t aware of why this is significant, licenses allow these games to use the league’s players, broadcasting, stadium, and trophies. Players want their football sim to be realistic, and these licenses result in exactly that.
One other reason licenses hold so much weight is FIFA’s biggest competitor PES. The EA game outsells its counterpart every year, mainly because the latter has no major leagues to attract fans. If the publisher finalizes this deal with the Premier League while retaining other licenses, FIFA will be fighting an uphill battle. Football fans also don’t trust the governing body a lot due to recent corruption scandals.
When you consider all of that, agreeing to a new deal with EA does seem like the better option. Most long-term players would love to see the two parties reconcile so the FIFA brand can live on in its original form. But, it seems like that ship has sailed and we’ll certainly see two major football simulators in the near future. Options aren’t always bad, but only time will tell which one comes out on top.
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