Electronic Arts is ending a 30-year partnership with Fifa, ending one of the most popular gaming partnerships in history after months of negotiations between the video game company and the Football Association.
California-based EA will rebrand its game as EA Sports FC after next summer’s Women’s World Cup. The content remains largely unchanged, with the same leagues, tournaments, clubs and athletes.
“This new independent platform will offer new opportunities – to innovate, create and evolve,” said Cam Weber, executive vice president of EA Sports, in a statement. “We exist to shape the future of football fandom – whether virtual or real, digital or physical, it’s all about football.”
The breakdown in the relationship is a sign of how one of the world’s leading sporting governing bodies is looking to generate more digital revenue to supplement earnings from the men’s World Cup while also capitalizing on the video game’s popularity.
Despite the long and profitable cooperation, EA and Zurich-based Fifa were involved in a dispute over the value of the Fifa brand. EA trademarked the EA Sports FC name last year, seemingly in preparation for the failure of the discussions.
More details on the future of EA Sports FC are expected next summer.
Fifa President Gianni Infantino said: “I can assure you that the only authentic, real game that bears the Fifa name will be the best 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 stay forever and stay the obsessed.”
Fifa earns around $150 million annually from the partnership, its largest commercial deal outside of hosting the men’s World Cup, which is held every four years.
The video game is EA’s “biggest and most popular” with around 150 million players, according to the company’s annual report. Players pay up to $70 each year for the new version on consoles and PC, and free-to-play versions are also available for mobile devices.
The Fifa Ultimate Team mode, which allows gamers to compete online and spend money to improve their football teams, generated 29 percent of total net sales in the year ended 31, according to EA’s annual report. Fifa Ultimate Team players grew 16 percent in 2021.
Some of the world’s largest football tournament organizers have backed EA to give the game developer a boost, which relies on licensing deals to showcase the branding of top leagues, teams and star players.
Richard Masters, CEO of the English Premier League, the wealthiest domestic football division in the world, called EA a “long-term and valued partner”, while La Liga President Javier Tebas said the Spanish league is “committed to partnering with EA Sports FC. . . for years to come.”
Europe’s Uefa, which organizes the elite Champions League tournament, and Conmebol, organizer of the South American Copa Libertadores, also expressed their support.
EA’s sports portfolio also includes partnerships with Madden NFL for American football; ice hockey National Hockey League; Formula 1 car racing; and UFC for mixed martial arts competitions.
Lifestyle simulation game The Sims 4 and Apex Legends, a Free-to-play battle royale mobile game, are among EA’s other popular titles. In April last year, the company acquired games maker Glu Mobile, best known for its animated role-playing game Kim Kardashian, for $2.4 billion.