Change is afoot for the video game that dominates dorm rooms around the world: Electronic Arts announced Tuesday that it will be ending its decades-long partnership with FIFA.
“FIFA 23,” scheduled to be released in July, will be the final installment in the uber-popular franchise of games. EA Sports plans to end its licensing agreement with soccer’s global governing body and produce a new game titled “EA Sports FC.”
“The launch of EA SPORTS FC is a franchise-defining moment for EA that will give the company the platform to deliver on its vision for the future of interactive football — a more progressive, creative and joyful experience for all football fans worldwide,” an EA spokesman said in an email to The Washington Post.
In a longer statement released Tuesday, EA called this change the start of an “exciting new era” but also emphasized that the series that has sold more than 325 million copies won’t lose any major features.
“Everything you love about our games will be part of EA SPORTS FC — the same great experiences, modes, leagues, tournaments, clubs and athletes will be there,” Cam Weber, Group General Manager of EA Sports, said in the statement.
In its own statement released a few hours later, FIFA said it would be pursuing other opportunities to create separate video games with “third party studios and publishers.” The organization said it will be releasing a “non-simulation” game centered on the 2022 World Cup this year and hopes to release “a major new FIFA simulation football game title” in 2024.
“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,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said.
A non-simulation game is one that does not aim to produce a re-creation of a sport with all of its players, teams and traditional gameplay. An example: the NBA Street series, which presents three-on-three basketball featuring surreal slam dunks and dribble moves. These new FIFA productions would represent one of the few times EA Sports has faced a major competitor in the soccer game market.
The possibility of this split was made public in the fall, when negotiations between FIFA and EA were said to have hit a wall. FIFA was reportedly seeking more than double the money it currently receives from EA Sports for licensing, according to the New York Times.
It was then, in October, that EA started filing trademarks for “EA Sports FC.” Also that month, Weber stressed in a blog post on the EA website that the company “continually [invests] in the partnerships and licenses that are most meaningful to players.”
So, will the game change? Probably not much.
Thanks to separate licensing agreements, EA Sports can keep most of its features even after its breakup with FIFA. Among those agreements are a deal with FIFPRO, the global players union, that was recently renewed and will allow the game to maintain player names and likenesses. EA also has deals with the English Premier League, German Bundesliga, Spanish La Liga, MLS and UEFA Champions League, among others. Each organization released comments of support to go with EA’s official announcement Tuesday.
“The only change that comes with dropping the FIFA license is a change in the name of the game itself,” EA said in a statement.
The fruitful partnership between EA and FIFA began in 1993 with the release of “FIFA International Soccer.” The game has been released annually since, making it the second-longest-running annual franchise behind the Madden NFL series.
More info on “EA Sports FC” is expected in the summer of 2023.