- EA’s former vice president of European marketing, Tom Stone, clarified that Sony was offered the FIFA license in the 90s by the football company, ISL.
- The Sony PlayStation Europe president at the time, Chris Deering, assured Tom that it would not accept the deal unless EA came to terms with the licenser.
- Sony made the decision to reject the deal to ensure a healthy relationship with EA.
EA’s former vice president of European marketing, Tom Stone, recently appeared in an interview with Time Extension and shared a really interesting tale. The ex-VP clarified that FIFA was at a major crossroads in the 90s. The FIFA license owner and the football company at the time, ISL, reached out to Sony and offered the license to it in secrecy. The publisher rejected such a deal in order for the relationship with EA to flourish in the future.
Chris Deering [the president of Sony PlayStation Europe at the time] met with me and said, ‘We’ve been offered the rights to FIFA Soccer’. I said, ‘You have got to be effing joking. Seriously? ISL has approached you and asked if you would like an exclusive worldwide license for FIFA? After everything we’ve done for them?’ I was really cross,” told Tom Stone.
Chris Deering assured Tom that he would not go through with the deal. In fact, he said that Sony would not pursue the FIFA license if Tom Stone could not come to terms with the football company. Tom clarifies that the president of Sony PlayStation Europe at the time had long-term ambitions and did not want to hurt the partnership with EA.
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But Chris said to me, ‘I will not sign that deal unless you can’t come to terms with FIFA. That’s your deal. You created that.’ Obviously, Chris was looking ‘big picture’ at the support that EA gave to PlayStation worldwide. I think that would have been an interesting conversation had Sony signed that deal, though. I think EA would have responded quite badly to that.”
The relationship between EA and the FIFA brand was also a little shaky behind the scenes. The publisher was looking at dropping the license way earlier than it eventually happened last year. The producer of various FIFA entries in the 90s, Marc Aubanel, also said that EA was doing more for FIFA than the licenser did for the publisher from a branding standpoint.
So we were in discussions about dropping them decades before EA finally dropped them. The only reason they didn’t was because marketing was petrified about losing that brand awareness. We’d built so much equity in that brand. We were tired of paying for it, but every time we had to renegotiate with FIFA, they just didn’t want to take that risk of having to rebrand it,” said Aubanel.
We could have seen a major shift in the FIFA titles if Sony had helmed the license since the 90s. It may contemplate reaching out to the brand now that EA has lost access to the FIFA license. But it seems unlikely because such a step may sour the connection between both—a similar reason to the one back in the 90s.
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