Electronic Arts is calling it quits with FIFA after nearly 30 years of using the soccer governing body's name in the titles of its games. FIFA 23 will be the last EA game with that branding when it arrives later this year. Starting in 2023, the annual soccer sim games will use the moniker "EA Sports FC" instead. More info about the first title in the revamped series will be revealed in July 2023.
Other than the rebranding, the EA Sports FC games may not be vastly different from what fans are used to in the long run. EA still holds licenses for more than 300 soccer partners and has exclusive agreements with the likes of the Premier League, MLS, La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A.
You can expect next year's title to still have more than 19,000 players, 700+ teams, north of 100 stadiums and 30 leagues. Features such as career mode, Ultimate Team and VOLTA Football will still be present too. It's unclear, however, what the move will mean for the inclusion of the World Cup in future titles.
In the meantime, EA Sports and Racing executive vice-president Cam Weber said his team and FIFA "are excited to deliver the greatest, most expansive EA Sports FIFA ever later this fall." He said there will be more teams, players, competitions, leagues and game modes than in any previous games. These updates will not only be present in FIFA 23, but also in FIFA Mobile, FIFA Online 4 and esports.
“We’re thankful for our many years of great partnership with FIFA," EA CEO Andrew Wilson said in a statement. "The future of global football is very bright, and fandom around the world has never been stronger. We have an incredible opportunity to put EA Sports FC at the heart of the sport, and to bring even more innovative and authentic experiences to the growing football audience.”
The end of the partnership isn't too surprising. FIFA expressed concern last fall about one entity (i.e. EA) having too much of the soccer gaming pie. It was talking with developers and other parties about how to "widen" the scope of its gaming and esports offerings. EA, on the other hand, said soon after the launch of FIFA 22 that it was "reviewing our naming rights agreement with FIFA" ahead of a possible rebranding. It filed a trademark application for "EA Sports FC" around the same time.
There are, of course, financial considerations at play. The New York Times reported in October that FIFA makes around $150 million per year through its licensing agreement with EA. In negotiations with the publisher, FIFA is said to have asked for a payment of over $1 billion for each World Cup cycle of four years. The two sides were also reportedly at odds over the scope of the partnership as well, including aspects like exclusivity.
Meanwhile, FIFA says EA will be able to release its next game as FIFA 23 under a non-exclusive, temporary extension of their partnership. This year's edition will include both the men's and women's editions of the World Cup for the first time.
The governing body noted it will release games created in collaboration with other developers in the third quarter of this year. These will be non-simulation titles, and the first one will be connected to the men's World Cup, which starts in November in Qatar.
Perhaps most significantly, FIFA said it's in talks with "leading game publishers, media companies and investors" in relation to "a major new FIFA simulation football game title for 2024." It may be fairly short notice to make a game on a comparable level with the current FIFA series for next year, unless FIFA is able to work with the likes of Pro Evolution Soccer/eSoccer developer Konami. Still, it seems there will be soccer sims bearing the FIFA branding beyond this year, even if they aren't from EA.
"I can assure you that the only authentic, real game that has the FIFA name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans," FIFA president Gianni Infantino said, seemingly in total sincerity. "The FIFA name is the only global, original title. FIFA 23, FIFA 24, FIFA 25 and FIFA 26 and so on — the constant is the FIFA name and it will remain forever and remain THE BEST."
Update 5/10 3:50PM: Added more details from FIFA.