After officially suggesting last year that it could part ways with the FIFA name, EA CEO Andrew Wilson has said more about the potential split in an internal meeting. In comments obtained by Video Games Chronicle, Wilson said that EA’s popular football games could actually be better off without its long-term FIFA partnership.
EA has licenced the FIFA name for almost 30 years and is now at the end of its latest 10-year naming deal, which expires at the end of 2022 after the Qatar World Cup. While EA’s next game will still likely release as FIFA 23, any subsequent games could release under a new name should EA choose not to renew the license.
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Late last year, EA expressed that it may decide to no longer use the FIFA name, while FIFA announced that it would be looking to end its exclusive arrangement with EA, and would be reaching out to more companies in the gaming space.
“I would argue–and this may be a little biased–that the FIFA brand has more meaning as a video game than it does a governing body of soccer,” Wilson told staff in comments published by VGC. “We don’t take that for granted and we try not to be arrogant. We’ve worked really hard to try and make FIFA understand what we need for the future.”
“Basically, what we get from FIFA in a non-World Cup year is the four letters on the front of the box, in a world where most people don’t even see the box anymore because they buy the game digitally,” Wilson continued. “In a World Cup year of course, we get access to the World Cup, but in the broader context of global football on an annualised basis, the World Cup is important but it’s not the most important. We have 300 other licences that give us the content that our players engage with the most and the most deeply.”
While the FIFA licence currently gives EA’s football game its name, the other licences mentioned are arguably more important, giving EA the right to use the various athletes, teams, stadiums, and leagues that are included in its games.
“As we’ve looked to the future we want to grow the franchise, and ironically the FIFA licence has actually been an impediment to that,” Wilson continued, listing a number of ways the FIFA partnership restricts what EA can put in its football games. He mentioned that there are restrictions on the commercial brands that can be included in the game, as FIFA has an ongoing partnership with Adidas, and that the partnership even restricts what game modes can be developed.
“Our players tell us they want more modes of play, different things beyond 11v11 and different types of gameplay. I would tell you, it’s been a fight to get FIFA to acknowledge the types of things that we want to create, because they say our licence only covers certain categories.”
Wilson said in the meeting that he had communicated these concerns with FIFA president Gianni Infantino, but he still wasn’t confident that they would be able to work out a new deal that worked for both companies. “Ironically, if we don’t… we’ll probably generate more revenue, and have more fans, and have more engagement over time,” he explained.
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