EA FC needs 2K Games to buy FIFA license and WWE fans will know why

David Purcell
Triple H from WWE with EA FC flag

EA SPORTS FC has been a whopping financial success, without question, but there’s a whiff of complacency in the air that will feel all too familiar a story to wrestling fans.

EA FC 24 has gone on to deliver “7% year-over-year net bookings growth,” according to EA, pushing them to $1.7 billion in total net bookings from live service titles between the start of October 2023 and the end of the year. Not bad for their first EA SPORTS FC launch after walking away from their longstanding licensing agreement with FIFA.

Dexerto gave EA FC 24 a 4/5 rating when the game was first released last September and with the series taking an unpredictable step into the unknown with a new name, we concluded they had played it safe in a good way.

We have a lot of big Career Mode players around our newsdesk, so the overhaul was a welcome one. Managers got to choose a philosophy, you could hire coaches, and training programs had never been more realistic. Belter.

Ultimate Team always gets an upgrade because it’s the money maker. You price that into your thinking these days. Evolutions has been a cool addition, seeing women added to the game’s most mainstream mode was a progressive leap for the series (even if it watered down your chances of getting big stars from the men’s games in packs), but it’s all a much of a muchness to an extent. Playing it safe did sum things up.

Messi in EA FC 24 celebrating
EA FC was supposed to be a new era. It didn’t really build on the momentum it generated at first.

And the thing is, the FIFA series we all grew up playing always had its finger on the pulse with popular culture. EA tapped into it and changed the game… Trading card games, sticker collections. The emergence of big managers becoming the main people in the game and wanting to imagine ourselves in the shoes of a top coach making the big decisions. Be the next Arsene Wenger, or Rafa Benitez, building your way up.

But if we’re being totally honest, those days of adding major modes and features are gone. VOLTA Football, as it stands, is a poor FIFA Street with a billion and one items you can pay money to own for the year. The last time something really meaningful happened in the series was The Journey – ay, remember that? FIFA 17 was a memorable installment.

Just watching the trailer back here, it’s actually the most creative thing they had done in years.

FIFA had a story mode and while it was a bit cringy at times, it was something that got everybody talking. It generated a buzz. Even now, many will hear the name Alex Hunter and laugh about it. It was only a few years ago and yet it feels almost nostalgic to watch it back. Remember the real fella behind the character stepping out on the stage at EA Play London in 2016?

For those of you who didn’t get the chance to play it, it was a little like MP in the 2K Games with a narrative.

It has to be said, in the years that have followed there have been small, incremental changes to FIFA. If you’re in the group of fans who follow different leaks and rumors before trailers get shown off, you will have been expecting all kinds from the EA FC 24 debut. There was talk of a free-to-play mode (or entire game), an Online Career Mode (every year it’s coming next year), and new leagues people have wanted for ages (looking at you, Brazil).

EA Vice President David Jackson promised players continued innovation to mark the new era for the series.

He took to LinkedIn after the publisher lost the FIFA rights, posting: “A deep commitment to innovation will be apparent in everything we look to achieve in the virtual world of football, as well as the real one. These symbols of change are critically important to us, even as we unveil our change of symbol.”

Instead, we got a selection of really ‘ok’ changes. Nothing in the initial pitch notes and presentations had that wow factor – and over time, there’s been a hint of complacency around the franchise’s direction. Maybe they are playing the long game? Maybe it’s more of the same.

The beginning of a new era felt like something WWE used to say every few years and then got worse. Now look, it’s the hottest and most talked about WWE has ever been in 2024.

The WWE 2K games might not be incredible, but I’m not talking about that. Look at their television shows and the direction of travel. Those who are watching will know what I mean.

WrestleMania XL, for instance, was the highest-growing event of the company’s entire history (up 78% YoY). CM Punk’s shock return at Survivor Series just months before that was crowned their biggest-ever social media moment for engagement with more than 71 million views across all platforms.

And why is that? Competition.

Tony Khan-backed AEW has undoubtedly raised the standards in WWE. They took old WWE stars, as well as great minds from the independent scene, and did things really well for a period of time. It put people on notice with the likes of Chris Jericho, Cody Rhodes, MJF, Jon Moxley, Kenny Omega, Edge, and Bryan Danielson involved at different times. Selling 80,000 tickets at Wembley showed they had gained major ground.

Interest levels have slowed down over time, though, with the market leader prevailing. AEW ratings have declined for over 12 months, reports Wrestling Inc. WWE, on the other hand, saw ratings increase in Q1 of 2024, as reported by Variety.

WWE opened up the “Paul Levesque era” on Monday Night RAW after WrestleMania on April 8 and fans couldn’t get enough of it. It felt like a key moment after one of the best Mania main events in years. Whether it’s giving Logan Paul a chance after his incredible boxing run, bringing Tyson Fury to events, or iShowSpeed popping up on the grandest stage of them all… anyone generating a serious buzz is on their radar now.

Finally, they are in a place to sweep up casual fans with improved booking, special appearances, and some more deep storytelling – pushed on by an emerging rival.

And looking at EA FC 24 and the lack of significant changes in recent times, I think we could do with a bit of that.

There have been rumors that FIFA is considering offers from potential buyers for their video game licensing again to compete with EA FC, and 2K has been slated to be in the mix.

Reliable insider Kurakasis posted a hint back in February that a deal could be struck, but later revealed it was merely old rumors.

Such speculation dates back to 2021. In an earnings call in November of that year, VGC posted transcribed notes. They came from a 2K Games earnings call.

During the meeting, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick was asked about the idea of purchasing the FIFA license in the future.

He said: “We are so thrilled to have Nordeus in the Take-Two family. They’re just crushing it and Top Eleven is a great, beloved title.

“I just couldn’t be happier to be in the soccer manager business through Top Eleven with the Nordeus team. That’s a big step forward for us… we haven’t been in that sport before. And erm, I think I’ll leave it at that today.”

It would make sense if they did one day (topical point: they started making the WWE games in 2013) as 2K is an obvious rival in the industry.

2K also approaches things a little differently. Their single-player offering does have microtransactions in NBA 2K MyCareer, for example, but it carves out interesting narratives with each release, too. It would be interesting to see another company approach a football game. Maybe they would succeed in doing something that pushes EA SPORTS forward. Healthy competition, as they say.

At this stage, it’s not known whether or not 2K will be making a move for the licensing. EA walked away because of the whopping price tag of $300m per year, according to reports, which was double the previous ask.

But if we use WWE as a case study – once famed for its connection to popular culture and having its finger on the pulse, and later deemed ‘out of touch – it has seen a certain revival. While it is not guaranteed, a major player entering the market not named Konami could have the same effect on EA FC.