The FIFA and EA Split: A new football game era

After almost 30 years of dominating and defining the interactive football gaming genre, the FIFA and EA partnership is coming to a rather sudden end. With an international community of football fans and gamers regularly purchasing each annual FIFA game release, the partnership was an undeniable big-earner. Since its first game, FIFA International Soccer, was released in 1993, the series has generated astronomical success for both the football association and games publisher; and yet, for good or for bad, their partnership will not continue past the end of 2022.

After sharing the news online, EA left their long-standing fanbase in a bit of a tailspin as questions continue to be asked about the future of their football franchise. If you’re looking for answers as to why the FIFA and EA break up happened, if it will affect this year’s release of FIFA 23, and what the future of football gaming will look like once the partnership is officially over, keep reading as we share all you need to know.

Why are FIFA and EA splitting?

After almost three full decades of repeatedly renewing their name licensing agreement to keep the FIFA gaming franchise as it has always been, the FIFA and EA split can be boiled down to two main issues: exclusivity and licensing costs. FIFA in particular, was allegedly unhappy with their inability to partner with other areas of the gaming industry under their current exclusive contract, and was unsatisfied with their annual income. Electronic Arts were similarly unbudging, refusing to give up exclusive rights to the FIFA name in the gaming industry or meet FIFA’s demands for increased licensing fees which, according to an article published by The New York Times in 2021, would have seen the organisation receive $300 million per year, a doubling of what it was.

In situations such as this where two international giants go head-to-head in negotiations, failure to sign a new agreement spells more than just a breakup, it also stirs up plenty of opinions among fans. Unfortunately for FIFA, the prevailing opinion in this break up appears to be that they lost more than EA did in the split, and that EA simply outgrew their need for the FIFA name as their successes continued to pile up.

Originally created as a way to help set EA’s series apart from the competition, such as Konami’s eFootball or Sports Interactive’s Football Manager, the FIFA name which came with their first exclusive agreement helped to identify their games as the only legitimate choice for football fans. While the name was included in the agreement, however, no individual rights were. Instead, EA was required to strike deals with football leagues and player unions to secure the rights to players, stadiums and kits if they wanted them in their game. 

The considerable resources of EA allowed them to create a vast portfolio of exclusive licences, and reap the benefits through millions upon millions of game sales, in-game marketplace transactions and virtual FUT card purchases. With these intellectual property assets seemingly secured for EA’s next footballing title, and a loyal fan base long-since built, the question arose of whether EA really needed FIFA at all.

Is EA making FIFA 23?

Yes, FIFA 23 will be made and published by EA but, as the current FIFA and EA partnership will come to an end on 31st December 2022, it will be the last game in the long-running series that EA will have any involvement with. Despite the dispute and split, both FIFA and EA are promoting the FIFA 23 game as the best yet, and, going by previous release dates, fans can expect to get their hands on it in September 2022.

Is FIFA 23 the last FIFA?

So soon after the split, it’s hard to know exactly what the future of the FIFA game series will look like, or even if it will have a future. According to a statement released by Gianni Infantino, the FIFA president, the series will continue, claiming that “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. 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.”

Unfortunately for fans excited to play FIFA 24, it may be unlikely that Infantino’s claims will come to pass. From a development perspective, creating a game to rival EA’s current quality will be a monumental task that may not be possible to complete in such a short time frame. Everything from scanning player models to building virtual environments will require an intense amount of resources, not to mention the time and cost of signing agreements to attain the rights to do so in the first place. Even with the odds stacked against them, however, we’ll be interested to test out the next game bearing the FIFA name when it’s finished in the hopes that Infantino’s speech turns out to be a reality.

For fans who aren’t interested in a FIFA title without the development and exclusive licensing brought by EA, there is another, likely more appealing option on the table: EA Sports FC.

What is EA Sports FC?

While FIFA 23 will be the last official EA Sports FIFA game, it is by no means the end of EA’s successful line of football games. Rebranded and free from the constraints of its decades-long deal with FIFA, 2023 will see the release of EA Sports FC. Seemingly set to be a FIFA title in all but name, this new branding will see the same breadth of real-world league and player licences as previous games, with “300+ license partners across the sport” ensuring that gamers will get the chance to interact with over 19,000 players, 700 teams, 100 stadiums and 30 leagues. Hopefully EA’s new venture will give gamers the opportunity to continue their virtual footballing fun for years to come. 

The future of virtual football

While it means different things to different people, the news of the EA and FIFA split means one thing is for certain: we’re about to enter a new era in football gaming. Whether you’re planning on sticking with EA by buying EA Sports FC when it’s released in 2023, or want to see what partnerships FIFA will strike up in the gaming industry, keep up to date with all the latest football news with the Avec Sport blog.