You’ve been playing FIFA for over 20 years, and EA’s take on the beautiful game is one of the most popular video game franchises of all time.
But, it’s all coming to an end in 2023, when the game you know and love loses the official FIFA license. Yes, that’s right; FIFA 23 is the last EA-FIFA game.
It’s not the end, though. The FIFA organization has vowed to publish its own game, while EA has already revealed the name of its new title: EA Sports FC.
So, why has the 20-year partnership ended, and what comes next?
EA and FIFA End 20-Year Partnership
Electronic Arts have officially announced the end of its two-decade-long partnership with FIFA, the world organizing body for soccer. In its official press release, EA confirmed that it would continue to work with its more than 300 license partners on its new title, EA Sports FC.
Most importantly for players, EA’s press release revealed that EA Sports FC will feature all of the top players, leagues, and teams, alongside the phenomenally popular Ultimate Team, Career Mode, and online play.
Our unique licensing portfolio of more than 19,000+ players, 700+ teams, 100+ stadiums and 30 leagues that we’ve continued to invest in for decades will still be there, uniquely in EA SPORTS FC. That includes exclusive partnerships with the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, the MLS – and more to come.
Of course, when it happens, you won’t find FIFA on EA Origin or EA Desktop, either.
Why Have EA and FIFA Parted Ways?
Although EA is synonymous with FIFA, it costs the game company around $150 million per year to license the FIFA brand, with the last deal signed in 2013. However, as reported by the New York Times, FIFA apparently attempted to increase that licensing fee to around $1 billion for the next four-year cycle—an enormous increase.
But beyond the licensing issue, cracks were already appearing in the relationship between EA and FIFA, particularly on the side of EA, who feel that FIFA was holding the title back. Ostensibly, EA pays FIFA for the four letters on the front of the box and the opportunity to create World Cup-related content every four years. But, due to the working relationship and branding, FIFA placed additional constraints on how EA could develop the title, preferring to keep its name linked to traditional soccer formats (11 vs. 11) rather than other potential gameplay formats.
There have also been mutterings concerning EA bringing new types of digital content into FIFA, exploring the idea of NFTs within Ultimate Team, which FIFA was understood to be unhappy about. EA is also keen to explore modern, on-demand gaming systems, as seen in Fortnite and Apex Legends, where in-game events can change rapidly, offering players different opportunities.
The combination of factors means that EA believes it can go it alone without FIFA. Thus, FIFA 23 is the final EA-FIFA game to carry one of the most enduring names in video games. For many, buying FIFA has been a yearly ritual since FIFA International Soccer, way back on the Sega Mega Drive.
What’s Next for EA and FIFA?
EA has built a considerable licensing network throughout global soccer. It holds licensing agreements with the top leagues and teams, as well as with UEFA, which licenses the Champions League, Europa League, and Conference League. Presuming it maintains those licensing agreements, in 2024, the first iteration of EA Sports FC will continue to feature all of the best players in the best leagues worldwide.
And it’s highly likely that’s how it will remain. FIFA has speculated about releasing a title using its name, but it would be starting years behind EA, who will take their technology with them. You only have to look at the demise of former FIFA-competitor, Pro Evolution Soccer, to realize how difficult it is to compete against the relentless soccer machine of Electronic Arts. The developer of the rival franchise, Konami, has been losing ground to FIFA for years, and its latest attempt at a soccer game, eFootball 2022, was ridiculed by critics and players alike for its awful graphics, terrible gameplay, lack of licensing, and more.
So, even for an outfit like Konami that stood toe-to-toe with FIFA years and was considered by many a more realistic representation of soccer, remaining competitive is incredibly difficult. For FIFA to launch a brand new title that will actually draw players away from EA Sports FC seems unlikely, especially as EA is unlikely to want to share its licensing with a shiny new competitor.
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