FIFA Takes on EA Sports Video Game in Football’s New Rivalry

The name FIFA can bring to mind images of the World Cup and football’s biggest players, such as Pele, Zinedine Zidane or Lionel Messi. The abbreviation for the governing body of sport can also be somewhat reminiscent of shameless bribery and corruption. For many, however, it is the video game that is synonymous with FIFA.

For three decades, the Swiss football organization has had a thriving, mutually beneficial relationship with EA Sports. The annual edition of the video game, along with related products, has raised billions of dollars and has proven so lucrative that FIFA believes it can earn even more on its own.

FIFA broke off the license agreement’s partnership with Electronic Arts Inc. on Tuesday, making FIFA23 the latest new EA game involving both sides.

They now become opponents.

ALSO READ: EA Sports and FIFA end partnership, both eyes new video games

EA will continue to make football games with the best players and the biggest teams, they will only be deprived of the FIFA brand and instead called EA Sports FC.

Confusingly, FIFA24 should also be on the shelves next year as the football organization is determined to move forward with its own launch.

EA has already begun to highlight its advantages over the FIFA game, as it has the rights to show 19,000 players from more than 700 teams in more than 30 leagues playing in 100 arenas. Manchester United, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain will still be there, along with their best players.

“It’s the only place where you can have an authentic, famous and fully representative football experience,” David Jackson, vice president of the EA SPORTS FIFA brand, told the Associated Press. I think there is an element of potential confusion in the market.

The exaggeration from FIFA is already trying to undermine EA’s marketing by claiming that it is in talks with several rival gaming companies and has plans to go into the metaverse.

I can assure you, said FIFA President Gianni Infantino, that the only authentic, real game with the FIFA name will be the best available to players and football fans.

How this will be achieved is far from clear, even though FIFA has the rights to the biggest football show on earth. The World Cup will disappear from the EA game.

The FIFA name is the only global original title, said Infantino. FIFA 23, FIFA 24, FIFA 25 and FIFA 26, and so on the constant is the FIFA name and it will remain forever and remain the best.

That kind of bombastic talk puts pressure on FIFA to deliver on Infantino’s vision for a game that secures the EA series even though they do not have the rights to present leagues like the Premier League and the teams that play in them.

New players would face a steep licensing curve to compete with EA, says Andrew Marok, an analyst covering the digital media sector at investment bank Raymond James.

Football games are big business for EA. The annual report released this week showed revenue of $ 6.19 billion.

We have just had our biggest year ever for EA SPORTS FIFA games, EA Sports CEO Andrew Wilson told investors on Wednesday, a day after it was announced that the FIFA agreement would expire at the end of the year.

A large part of the revenue comes from the Ultimate Team mode, where customers buy extra content in EA sports games. It generated $ 1.623 billion in 2021.

We have historically derived a significant portion of our net revenue from sales related to our largest and most popular game, FIFA, whose annual versions are consistently one of the best-selling games on the market, EA told investors.

Brand loyalty will be the key from next year. Will players stay with EA’s rebranded product or jump to the rival launched by FIFA?

It is already a competitive market with eFootball, the former Pro Evolution Soccer game produced by the Japanese company Konami. That game has a partnership with Manchester United, although the record-breaking 20-time English champions will still be in EA’s play through a Premier League deal.

EA has already warned its investors about the risks of its football betting business from rivals.

Any events or circumstances that adversely affect our FIFA franchise, such as product or service quality, other products that take some of consumers’ expenses and time, delays or cancellations of a product or service, increased competition for key licenses, or real or perceived security risks , could adversely affect our financial results to a disproportionate extent, EA said in its annual report.

EA should gain an edge over FIFA by retaining its 300 licensing partners, 30 leagues and leagues, 700 teams and 19,000 athletes, JPMorgan analyst David Karnovsky said in a customer note.

While it’s hard to believe that there will be at least some impact from the brand shift to sales, the $ 150 million available from the lack of a license fee to FIFA leaves plenty of room for marketing to raise awareness about EA Sports FC, wrote Karnovsky.

Getting rid of the world of football politics has its benefits for EA. Tensions between regional confederations have led to the European body UEFA and the South American counterpart CONMEBOL bypassing FIFA to start its own championship meeting. The debut of Finalissima will see Italy and Argentina meet at Wembley Stadium in London on June 1. It would seem inappropriate for EA to market its FIFA game at the match.

What name would we put on a perimeter board at a UEFA CONMEBOL event? It’s really tough for us to put FIFA there, says Jackson, EA’s vice president of branding. What used to be a springboard for our brand, and an accelerator to it many years ago, has only become less valuable to us over time.

EA may also have saved the FIFA brand. The delighted connection to the video game by so many fans has been balanced against the toxicity of the Sepp Blatter era’s organization following the launch of extensive criminal investigations into football corruption in 2015.

If you ask a young football fan what FIFA is, they are more likely to say a video game than they are the global governing body, but that value lives with us, I think, Jackson said. We are the dominant voice in the football world from an interactive entertainment perspective, and we do not see a world where that is changing.

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