Football Games will Never Be The Same Again

But will it be for the better or worse?

Football Games will never be the same again
Football Games will never be the same again

For the past three decades, FIFA and EA Sports have successfully enticed, enabled & entertained millions of football fans worldwide through their much-praised FIFA game series to live out their wildest football fantasies right from the comfort of their homes. 

The thought of controlling and playing as Messi or Ronaldo and breaking all imaginable records to win the much-coveted Ballon d’Or or taking over as a manager of a financially-stricken club from the depths of League 1 and making them champions of Europe, every true gaming fan owes this gaming series and the companies behind it, a big thumbs up from their side for giving the world the opportunity to experience arguably one of the best football gaming series produced till date. 

But as the age-old saying goes, change is the only constant. So after years of selling more than 350 million copies of the game and earning around an astounding $20 billion from it, the global football governing body FIFA, and leading sports game developers EA Sports, a subsidiary of the leading interactive entertainment software company, Electronic Arts, have finally come to an amicable decision of putting an end to their highly successful 30-year association. 

Although it must be noted that the two behemoths of the entertainment industry were keen to reach an agreement, after a year of tough negotiations, it became pretty clear to both of them that common ground was difficult to achieve, primarily because not only did both the companies have the clear but contrasting vision of what they would like to be doing moving forwards with their respective brands, but also the seemingly unreasonable growing expectations with each other, hence, at the end of the day, an amicable separation was the best way forward. 

So, what caused one of the leading and most successful partnerships in the gaming industry to end, you ask?

Well, there are two main reasons which stick out to us, one was the fee FIFA demanded from EA Sports to renew their yearly association, and secondly, FIFA wanted to explore more avenues to expand their brand and collaborate with other companies, which from their point of view was much-needed. Still, on the flip side, that meant no more exclusivity benefits reserved for EA Sports and their games, which didn’t appeal to them.

Come, let’s discuss these reasons in more detail:   

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY!

Picture Courtesy: Freepix

Money is one of the more apparent reasons almost any business association between companies fails.

So far, as per various reputable sources, EA Sports used to pay FIFA around $150 million annually for their licensing deal, but until recently, FIFA decided to raise the stakes and demanded that they would like to receive at least double that amount annually from them, close to $250 million, to continue their long-standing deal. 

For obvious reasons, the deal was deemed too steep for EA Sports even to consider accepting, and with FIFA unwilling to back down from their demands, they had no other option but to walk away.

MORE FLEXIBILITY, LESS EXCLUSIVITY

Picture Courtesy: Exit Promise

Coming to the second primary reason responsible for the discontinuation of the licensing deal was FIFA’s desire to expand and “unlock newer revenue streams,” denying EA Sports the sole exclusivity of their brand in the process.

For over three decades, FIFA and EA Sports have almost been synonymous with each other, and we can also go as far as to say that it is through the EA Sports game series that FIFA, the players, the club and country competitions have got the maximum attention, visibility & popularity.

In exchange, all EA Sports ever wanted from them was the right to exclusivity of their brand, which until now, FIFA was more than willing to provide to them.

The reason for FIFA to backtrack on the exclusivity deal is their desire to spread their wings and associate with other third-party studios and publishers to develop a new football game series to technically compete with EA Sports. 

Apart from this new FIFA game, they are also looking to launch other football-themed games, which might not be as extensive and in-depth in gameplay as the older simulation games made in association with EA Sports or, like the more comprehensive one they are looking to launch in 2024 and beyond. However, they will still help them get more reach and visibility, and it will also help open up new revenue streams for them in the future. 

On the other hand, although losing a licensing deal with a brand like FIFA is certainly not ideal, especially when their FIFA game series was their highest-earning game series, EA Sports does still have other popular game franchises under their stewardship like Madden, NHL, PGA Tour, & Formula 1 to move on to and build upon.

So what does it mean for gamers? 

It doesn’t affect them too much; on the contrary, I believe the split has happened for the better and will benefit gamers in the long term. 

Here are a few of my key takeaways:

  1. One of the most noticeable changes, players will have first to get accustomed to seeing the new EA Sports FC banner rather than seeing the FIFA one on their loading screens whenever they boot up the next installment of the game from EA Sports. 
  2. Famous FIFA tournaments like the world cup and others will no longer be available. On the flip side, however, popular non-FIFA club competitions like the premier league and the champions will still be accessible. 
  3. More competition between big brands is always beneficial to gamers. The FIFA game series by EA Sports has been great so far, but it has always been guilty on numerous occasions of coming across as being a little lazy. With added competition from other brands like FIFA’s very own new football simulation game and maybe even the return of Konami’s much acclaimed PES series(formerly known as Pro Evolution Soccer, now it is eFootball), this is one of the best times to be a football fan, as rather than gamers playing the only football game available, we’ll have a few other options to choose from if one game does not meet our expectations, which creates a very healthy yet competitive environment. 

Even though the two companies themselves will hopefully be looking to move on to newer and better things, one can’t ignore the fact that both FIFA and EA Sports will have some convincing to do to their followers as well as any future sponsors/partners, regarding their newest ventures and only time will tell whether this separation was for the better or worse. 

As of right now, though, EA Sports appears to be in a relatively more comfortable scenario as compared to FIFA, even though FIFA holds all the rights and licenses.

As, Game development technology, marketing expertise, branding, development teams, etc., EA Sports is in the lead, and it will take FIFA some time before they can look to challenge EA Sports with an equally accomplished product.

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