FIFA license deal in limbo as EA boss claims the game is bigger than FIFA itself

fifa 22 mbappeEA SPORTS

FIFA 22 looks set to be one of the last EA SPORTS titles to feature the official FIFA branding, based on comments from Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson – calling the current arrangement an “impediment.”

A public dispute over license exclusivity has been raging on between EA and FIFA, with the latter opening up the possibility of selling their lucrative naming rights to multiple developers in the gaming space.

EA has enjoyed exclusive access to those naming rights for over two decades, though a statement posted in October 2021 revealed the publisher was “exploring” the option of renaming the series. Trademarks have since been filed for EA SPORTS FC – branding used in previous games – across Europe and the United States.

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In a press release posted on October 7, EA said: “As we look ahead, we’re also exploring the idea of renaming our global EA SPORTS football games.

“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 18 world cupEA SPORTS
EA’s current agreement with FIFA gives them exclusive access to World Cup content.

Since then, FIFA has announced that no single developer will be able to exploit their name with exclusivity agreements, at the close of the current deal. This means that while Electronic Arts may continue their series under another title, 2K Sports or another studio could take the name for the right price.

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EA claim 300 other licenses are being considered

On February 23, VGC reported EA CEO Andrew Wilson updated staff on the situation, back in November 2021. He said: “I’m going to be more open… more open than I’ve been with the outside world.

“We’ve had a great relationship with FIFA over the past 30-odd 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 argue – and this may be a little biased – that the FIFA brand has more meaning as a video game than it does a governing body of soccer. We don’t take that for granted and we try not to be arrogant. We’ve worked really hard to try and make FIFA understand what we need for the future.”

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One of the most eye-catching parts of the statement was Wilson’s description of the current deal.

He said: “As we’ve looked to the future we want to grow the franchise, and ironically the FIFA license has actually been an impediment to that.”

EA claim 300 other licenses are being considered

FIFA 22 Champions League matchEA SPORTS
EA SPORTS does have other major licenses secured, independent of the FIFA deal, including for UEFA competitions. 

FIFA reportedly wants $1 billion every four years from EA SPORTS for them to continue their current partnership, with the current license expiring after the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

To that point, Wilson commented on the World Cup specifically. He added: “Basically, what we get from FIFA in a non-World Cup year is the 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.”

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“In a World Cup year, of course, we get access to the World Cup, but in the broader context of global football on an annualized basis, the World Cup is important but it’s not the most important. We have 300 other licenses that give us the content that our players engage with the most and the most deeply.”

This opens the door for other advertising partners, such as Nike or Adidas, to get around the negotiating table with EA SPORTS for a future arrangement, meaning a change in the series’ name looks more likely than ever before.