FIFA, one of the most popular video game franchises, will be renamed EA Sports FC after the game’s publisher, Electronic Arts Inc., failed to reach a new licensing agreement with the world soccer governing body of the same name.
Chief executive officer Andrew Wilson said he was “thankful for our many years of great partnership” with FIFA and that the final game in the franchise will be released this year. The new series will retain licensing agreements with more than 300 of EA’s partners, allowing future games to continue featuring most global soccer players, teams and stadiums.
The relationship between the two began nearly three decades ago with 1993’s FIFA International Soccer game, which topped the charts on Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. Since then, the partners have churned out a new game every year, bringing in more than $20 billion in revenue for EA and allowing it to quash potential competitors with an exclusivity arrangement. In 2013, the two extended their deal until the end of 2022.
But negotiations over the contract renewal had grown contentious and were drawn out into the public in October when EA said in a public statement that it was considering a name change. “As we look ahead, we’re also exploring the idea of renaming our global EA SPORTS football games,” EA Sports general manager Cam Weber wrote at the time. “This means we’re reviewing our naming rights agreement with FIFA, which is separate from all our other official partnerships and licenses across the football world.”
FIFA was seeking more than double the fees it was already receiving for EA to use its name, the New York Times reported, and the two companies also battled over whether EA’s exclusivity rights extended to areas beyond the game such as highlights, tournaments and non-fungible tokens. The partnership seemed destined for failure when EA registered the trademark for EA Sports FC, signaling its willingness to move on.
Now, FIFA is free to work with other game companies, although it may struggle to find a partner that fits. The only other rival soccer video game franchise, Pro Evolution Soccer, from Konami Holdings Corp., has declined in recent years. Last year’s entry, the rebranded eFootball 2022, was unanimously panned.
From a practical perspective, the change may not amount to much for EA, analysts said. With the same rosters and stadiums, players might not even notice much of a difference — except for a less catchy name.
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