Last week EA hinted that it might be renaming its massively popular FIFA series. Now we know why. According to a new report by The New York Times, the International Federation of Association Football is asking the sports publishing giant to pay $1 billion for exclusive rights to the FIFA brand going forward.
“FIFA is seeking more than double what it currently receives from EA Sports, according to people with knowledge of the talks, a figure that would increase its payout from the series to more than $1 billion for each four-year World Cup cycle,” writes The New York Times.
Money isn’t the only issue, however. The two sides also apparently disagree over what should be included in a new exclusivity deal. FIFA wants to keep more control over the brand so it can cut deals with other companies like Epic Games, while EA wants to “explore other ventures within its FIFA video game ecosystem, including highlights of actual games, arena video game tournaments and digital products like NFTs.” God help us.
The FIFA series’ current deal with international soccer’s governing body is set to expire next year. It’s been incredibly lucrative for EA, which The New York Times estimates earned roughly $20 billion over the life of the franchise, and $1.2 billion from FIFA’s loot box-based Ultimate Team mode last year alone.
EA itself has come under fire for including paid gambling mechanics in its games, including the recently released FIFA 22. EA chief experience officer Chris Bruzzo tried to defend the practice, which has drawn scrutiny from UK regulators and others, in a recent interview with Eurogamer. Those defenses, which were unconvincing to say the least, ran the gamut from wanting to offer players more choice to the fact that professional soccer itself is also an exploitative money pit.
FIFA isn’t exactly clean either. Several officials were arrested and charged with various forms of corruption back in 2015, while the host country selection process for the World Cup remains rife with accusations of bribery.
While EA may have teased abandoning the FIFA license last week in an attempt to gain leverage in the ongoing negotiation, a possibility floated by former EA executive Peter Moore to The Times, it’s also possible the publisher just doesn’t see the point in continuing to pay for it given the dominance and popularity of national leagues and UEFA’s Champion’s League.
If EA does fail to renew its exclusivity deal with FIFA, it could lead to a renaissance in new original soccer games. Or at least the proliferation of more trash NFTs.