Electronic Arts has announced that it will cease making Fifa-branded football games next year. From 2023, the series will continue under a new brand, EA Sports FC.
In a press release on the decision, EA stated that licensing deals remain in place with 19,000 players, 700 teams, and more than 30 leagues from around the world, as well as with UEFA, which means the Champions League will still be a part of the game, although the World Cup will not.
The Fifa titles have been an annual fixture in game charts since the release of 1993’s Fifa International Soccer on the Sega Mega Drive. Since then the titles have sold more than 325m copies around the world, dominating the football simulation market and seeing off competitors such as Actua Soccer and Pro Evolution Soccer.
The possibility of a split between Electronic Arts and Fifa was first reported by the New York Times last October when it was claimed that Fifa was looking to double its licensing fee to $1bn.
Speaking to the BBC, David Jackson, vice president of EA Sports said that the publisher has plans to extend the game beyond interactive matches, but that the licensing restrictions imposed by Fifa were prohibitive.
“At the moment, we engage in play as a primary form of interactive experience. Soon, watching and creating content are going to be equally as important for fans,” said Jackson.
“Under the licensing conventions that we had agreed with Fifa 10 years ago, there were some restrictions that weren’t going to allow us to be able to build those experiences for players.”
It’s likely that Electronic Arts will look to capitalise on the massive success of ‘live service’ games such as Fortnite and its own Apex Legends, where annual release schedules have been replaced by an evolving experience with seasonal subscription fees, live events and greater player customisation options. Watching live matches and esports competitions could also be part of the new series.
Electronic Arts has attracted criticism for the ‘loot box’-style monetisation of its popular Ultimate Team mode, in which fans pay for randomised digital packets of players with which to build their own superstar sides. In 2018, Belgian effectively banned loot box mechanics in games when they were classified as unregulated gambling. Governments around the world have since looked into tightening regulations.
For its part, Fifa has confirmed a new non-exclusive model for the future of the Fifa game titles. In a press release sent out two hours after EA’s, the football governing body stated, “a number of new non-simulation games are already under production and will launch during the third quarter of this year”.
Fifa did not share details on which games publishers it is working with. However, in a combative statement Fifa president Gianni Infantino said, “I can assure you that the only authentic, real game that has the Fifa name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans. The Fifa name is the only global, original title. 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”.
EA has not disclosed details on the plan for monetising its future football games, but industry watchers will be interested to see if it rolls back on its profitable Ultimate Team model. Fans will also await more solid information on EA’s promises to introduce fresh modes and innovate in new areas such as the women’s game and grassroots football.