Electronic Arts' licensing deal with FIFA has gone on so long that the two have become effectively synonymous with each other. At least, that's as far as soccer sports sims go. It also doesn't help that the FIFA games are the best-selling sports video game franchise in the world with more than 325 million units sold over nearly three decades. But, it appears that the current CEO of Electronic Arts is open to exploring other avenues.
Back in October, EA announced that it's not ruling out a name-change of the popular soccer franchise following a financially-driven dispute. FIFA countered not long after and we haven't heard much from both companies since.
Now, after months of silence, a series of leaked comments from an EA meeting last November, as reported by Tom Henderson for VGC, suggests that Andrew Wilson doesn't think so highly of EA and FIFA's partnership anymore. In particular, Wilson points out that the biggest benefit of the licensing deal to EA is "four letters on the front of the box."
Wilson's candid comments, if true, do make some sense. EA's deal with FIFA might give it access to the World Cup but it has hundreds of other licensing agreements in place as well. Even without FIFA's involvement, EA can still use the names and likeness of professional soccer's various leagues, players, and teams.
Admittedly, it's hard to find fault with Wilson's comments. A decade or so ago, the FIFA branding added much credibility to EA, allowing the EA-published FIFA series to stand out in a crowded sports sim market. However, this is no longer the case these days with Pro Evolution Soccer's free-to-play venture, eFootball, officially becoming the worst-rated game on Steam. It's not just the lack of competition either, as the FIFA brand itself presents little to no value for EA at all. Instead, EA's soccer games now bring more value to the FIFA brand than the other way around, which gives the video game publisher all the leverage that it needs.
It will be interesting to see how EA and FIFA's feud will play out as well as what will come of it. So far, EA hasn't officially confirmed that it's breaking off from the FIFA brand nor the new name of its soccer games once the licensing deal expires. The silver lining here is that we're bound to hear more about this soon. EA will have to address this issue later this year once the 10-year deal ends following the conclusion of this year's World Cup in Qatar on December 18.