A future where FIFA games have a different name is looking likelier. Reports have been swirling for some time that EA Sports is considering abandoning the brand, and now a frank appraisal from CEO Andrew Wilson, as reported by VGC, makes it seem even more likely. In a speech allegedly given to employees, the Australian executive described the license as an “impediment” and “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”.
According to the report, Wilson argued that ditching the license – which may cost the company $2.5 billion to renew – will allow it to expand its games, and be more nimble with the content in them. It also won’t lose access to any teams or leagues, as they’re handled separately. “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,” he said. “Our players tell us they want more cultural and commercial brands relevant to them in their markets, more deeply embedded in the game – brands like Nike. But because FIFA has a relationship with Adidas, we are not able to do that.”
The suit continued that EA Sports has even found it difficult to expand upon the traditional 11-vs-11 gameplay found in FIFA games, due to push-back from the license holder. “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,” he continued. Recent FIFA games have included Volta Football as an alternative way to play, but this content does feel undercooked compared to the main game. In series like NBA 2K, the street basketball component feels like a much bigger focus.
Above all, Wilson noted that EA Sports simply doesn’t have the freedom to be nimble with FIFA in the background: “Our players are telling us they want us to move really quick: ‘We want you guys doing stuff fast.’ And in order to do that, we need a level of freedom to be truly creative, innovative, and experiment in the marketplace. Because of the nature of the approval timetables and the various things around our FIFA licence, that’s actually been really hard and we’re moving much slower than we want.”
It all sounds pretty cut and dry to us, but Wilson did note that EA Sports is trying to be a good partner, and has discussed its concerns directly with the governing body. “I had a conversation with [FIFA president] Gianni Infantino just a couple of weeks ago where I said, ‘Listen, the money’s a thing: we don’t want to pay more money than this licence is worth. But it’s not about that, it’s really about our ability to deliver games and experiences that our fans want, in a timely fashion.’”
To be honest, the comments seem fair enough to us. FIFA 23 will launch as planned later this year, and will include both the women’s and men’s World Cups – two features that would be absent should EA Sports move on from the license. The worry here for EA Sports is that another publisher, like Konami or 2K Sports, could swoop in and gain access to the same license it’s spent decades marketing, and there’s really nothing it could do. Although, even if that were to be the case, it’d still retain exclusive access to tournaments like the Champions League and leagues like the Premier League.