[Note: For the rest of this article, I’ll be referring to soccer as football. Yes, I know some of you find that confusing, but it will be more confusing if I didn’t, so I suggest dealing with it and moving on.]
For over a year now, there have been rumors of disharmony between Electronic Arts and FIFA — the organization that describes itself as the international governing body of football for multiple member countries. These rumors stated that this discord began, as all things in the video game industry tend to be, with disagreements about money, licensing fees, and whether the true weight behind the brand is FIFA’s or EA’s to wield. Obviously, both entities thought it was their own and that it gave them more leverage at the bargaining table. It was at one point unthinkable that either would walk away from the other, though.
At one point, anyway.
EA today has announced “a new era” for “interactive football experiences,” which is PR-speak for EA ditching the license to strike out on their own, as much as a mega-corporation can do such a thing. After this year’s FIFA title, the series will rebrand itself as EA Sports FC.
“Everything you love about our games will be part of EA SPORTS FC – the same great experiences, modes, leagues, tournaments, clubs and athletes will be there,” a post on EA’s site reads. “Ultimate Team, Career Mode, Pro Clubs and VOLTA Football will all be there. Our unique licensing portfolio of more than 19,000+ players, 700+ teams, 100+ stadiums and 30 leagues that we’ve continued to invest in for decades will still be there, uniquely in EA SPORTS FC. That includes exclusive partnerships with the Premier League, LaLiga, Bundesliga, Serie A, the MLS – and more to come.”
This is not the first time EA has decided to stop dealing with the license-holders. Last year, the publisher announced an intention to get back into the college football arena with EA Sports College Football and its own specific licensing agreement that does not involve the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). EA discontinued the NCAA Football series after settling a lawsuit that athlete likenesses used without permission or compensation were a no-go legally, forcing them to pay up $60 million. They have not really talked about the game since.
Presumably, EA has explored their legal avenues with football this time around before ditching FIFA. It will be an interesting test to see what actually has more cache: the game that EA makes or the branding they put on it every year?