EA says FIFA license delays game evolution

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Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts (EA), told company employees in November 2021 that the FIFA license had been an “impediment” for EA regarding the evolution of football games.

Chronicle of video games reports that Wilson told the team in an internal meeting that the FIFA organization had blocked the company from expanding the FIFA game. This would include additional modes beyond a standard 11 vs. 11 or “wider options”.

Wilson also reported that the only amount EA received from FIFA in a year without the World Cup was just “four letters off the front of the box”. “I’m going to be honest…more sincere than I was with people on the outside,” the CEO reportedly said when asked why EA was considering breaking up with FIFA and added:

“We’ve had a great relationship with FIFA over the past 30 years. We’ve created billions in value…it’s just huge. We’ve created one of the biggest entertainment properties on the planet. I would say – and it may seem a bit biased – that the FIFA brand makes more sense as a video game than as traditional football. We don’t take that for granted and try not to be arrogant. We’ve worked very hard to try to make FIFA understand what we need for the future.

It’s another part of EA’s long-running feud with the FIFA organization, which recently saw FIFA challenge EA’s football monopoly. The organization released a statement in October 2021, calling themselves “optimistic” about the “future of gaming and sport”.

The statement also appears to underscore EA’s dominance in the soccer video game market, significantly outpacing its sole competitor, Pro Evolution Soccer (PES). FIFA would like to charge EA more than $1 billion a year for trademark rights.

EA currently has a contract with FIFA that allows it to use the organization’s name for 10 years, but that could expire without renewal after this year’s Qatar World Cup, making FIFA 23 potentially the last game of soccer in the world. EA Sports branded FIFA.

“Our players are telling us that they want more cultural and commercial brands, which are relevant to them in the market, which are more deeply rooted in the game…brands like Nike. But since FIFA has a relationship with Adidas , we can’t do that,” Wilson said.

The executive also said FIFA is hampering EA’s ability to quickly adapt to player demands and add new features or content. “Our players tell us they want more game modes, different things from 11v11 and different types of gameplay. It’s been difficult for FIFA to recognize the types of things we want to create because they say our license doesn’t only covers certain categories.

“Our consumers are telling us they want us to go faster, and to do that, we need a level of freedom to be really creative, innovative, and experiment in the marketplace,” Wilson said.

He added that EA wanted to maintain a good partnership with FIFA, but “I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the end, we part ways”.

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