“Fancy a game of FIFA?” has been a question asked by many a football fan over the years. Although many players have endured something of a love-hate relationship with the game, most have been unable to resist going back to it year after year. For those seeking to return for the 2023/24 season though, they will not find FIFA 24 on the shelves of their local video game store. Instead, they will only find the slightly more long-winded EA Sports FC 24.
This name change truly represents the end of an era as FIFA has been entertaining us in our homes all the way back since its first edition, FIFA International Soccer, produced in 1993. Every year since then, EA Sports has churned out at least one iteration of the world’s favourite sports video game franchise. Proving to be a complete cash cow, you have to wonder why there has been a change to this winning formula.
Most would agree that “Fancy a game of EA Sports FC?” does not have quite the same ring to it but EA and FIFA could not agree terms, thus ending their three-decade relationship. This begs the question how did we reach this stage and how will the absence of FIFA 24 impact the future of football gaming?
No FIFA 24 as EA & FIFA Negotiations Breakdown
In the very early days, football was low down on EA Sports’ list of priorities but with an upcoming World Cup in the USA in the summer of 1994, the early 90s seemed a good time to give it a try. Although football games had existed prior to the release of FIFA International Soccer in 1993, this was the first game to benefit from full FIFA branding. Football’s governing body did not own the rights to any teams, competitions or player likeness, but allowing EA to use their name on the front cover was excellent for building recognition. In exchange, FIFA asked only for a rather paltry amount in royalty payments.
Aided by the low fee demanded by FIFA, EA’s venture into the world of football gaming was a real success. Further games followed year-on-year and EA and FIFA were able to extend their commercial arrangement in 1998, 2006 and in 2013. Fast forward to 2022 though, and with the contract up for renewal, EA Sports were now in a much stronger position than they were years before.
For one, EA Sports had established itself as the undisputed developer when it comes to football games. With the likes of International Superstar Soccer long dead and Pro Evolution Soccer (now eFootball) having lost their status as a genuine competitor, there is no other choice for serious football gaming. With every football fan so aware of EA Sports by this stage, they have become much less reliant on the FIFA branding than they once were.
This is not to say that EA Sports wished to cut ties with FIFA and give themselves a rebrand. They arrived at the negotiation table hoping to win the rights for FIFA 24 and beyond. The two were reportedly some way apart from ever agreeing though as their demands had both increased substantially from last time. FIFA wanted its annual fee doubled to $300m, knowing that more than a third of EA’s multi-billion-dollar revenue comes from its beloved football title.
EA had their own demands though. For one, they wanted more than to just release a game but also to host “esports tournaments, and release non-fungible tokens (NFTs) based on FIFA”. This did not go down well with FIFA who wanted the license to strictly relate to soccer simulation, as to not to interfere with their own digital money-making ventures. Basically, it came down to money, as things so often do.
What Will EA Sports FC Look Like?
For players, the reassuring element is that not having FIFA on board will have little impact on EA Sports FC. The game will still have over 300 licences, which means over 19,000 life-like players, 700 real teams, 100 real stadiums and all the usual features. Given that FIFA had no licences themselves, and was simply there for awareness, their bullish position in negotiations seems all the more strange. Now they are left with a huge hit in income as EA were responsible for a sizeable portion of the money they received.
EA Sports on the other hand now have greater freedom with their game, as they have lost all FIFA restrictions and they have saved themselves hundreds of millions of dollars too. The only thing they will struggle to produce in future is a World Cup-specific game but they have not bothered with one of these since 2014 anyway.
Really all players will notice is some rebranding here and there, the game will be FIFA 24 in everything but name. FIFA Ultimate Team, commonly abbreviated as FUT, will just go by UT instead. All the favourite game modes will feature as normal and there have been some optional changes too, such as renaming Pro Clubs to just ‘Clubs’. Old habits die hard, so no doubt some players will be slow to swap to the new names, but for EA Sports, this is hardly a problem as long as people are buying the game.
Software vs the Name
FIFA President, Gianna Infantino, has promised that the FIFA name will return. He said, fully giving the impression he had no idea what he was talking about, that “The new FIFA game – the FIFA 25, 26, 27 and so on – will always be the best egame for any girl or boy, we will have news on this very soon.” We’re not sure what is worse, calling FIFA an egame, suggesting only children play the games, or calling it “the FIFA”!
The man who often appears to be a low-budget Bond villain appears confident about the chances of FIFA making a heroic comeback but we cannot see it. For starters, EA Sports has a year by itself, in which time it can share its new name without any confusion. Had FIFA managed to get a FIFA 24 released soon after EA Sports FC 24, think of how many confused parents would have purchased the wrong game at Christmas.
Secondly, quality, tested software is what is going to win over gamers, not having a more recognisable name. The gaming community may well loath EA as a company but it is hard to deny that they produce extremely good-looking, entertaining, and realistic football games.
Having the superior software proved key when Football Manager maker, Sports Interactive, split from Edios back in 2003. The former kept all the source code while Edios kept the Championship Manager brand. Not only did Edios have to push the release date of their fresh game back, but it still ended up full of bugs on release. This marked the start of Championship Manager’s decline, while Football Manager has gone from strength to strength since.
We already know there will not be a FIFA 24 but even seeing a FIFA 25 will be a big ask given that such games tend to come out early in the footballing season. There have been rumours that 2K might be given the job of developing the game and although the NBA 2K series might crush EA’s basketball offering, replicating this on a football pitch will be extremely challenging. We will be watching closely to see how things pan out, but it seems, to us at least, that EA have done better here than FIFA.