The most popular soccer video game in the word, EA’s FIFA, could get a name change as the company mulls over the costs of keeping the licence. According to a report from the New York Times, FIFA’s asking price for the name alone is $1 billion per four years. And new trademark registered in the United Kingdom adds to the speculation that EA is looking for a change.
A Billion For…
FIFA, short for Fédération Internationale de Football Association, is the global governing body of Soccer. It also controls the branding rights for the World Cup, the largest single-sport event in the world. For nearly 30 years, EA’s agreement with FIFA allowed them to use the name and official logos, branding and themes from each World Cup event. As it stands, special World Cup modes are added to current FIFA games, but at one point they were stand alone titles.
While a removal of World Cup branding would scuff any international modes, the bulk of the FIFA series could remain unchanged. Player names and likenesses are handled through FIFPRO, world football’s player union which is a separate entity from FIFA. And even with apprehension around the FIFA name, FIFPRO has already renewed its contract with EA. Teams, Leagues and continental competitions all negotiate their own contracts with EA separate from FIFA. So even without the official name, very little could change.
For example, Serie A’s Roma and Juventus signed exclusivity deals with Konami’s eFootball 2021. This removed their official team branding, uniforms, and stadium from FIFA 21. All the players are still there, but draped in EA created generic branding. So for roughly $250 million per year EA can use the “FIFA” name and make a World Cup mode. While FIFA gets its name slapped on one of the most well known and profitable game franchises in ever created.
A Rose By Any Other Name…
In the event that EA does end the FIFA deal it’s already put some contingencies in place. As of October 1 2021, they’ve registered the name “EA Sports FC” with the UK Intellectual Property Office. This follows a trend of their new naming conventions that bypass pricey naming rights. Their in development college football game has no mention of the NCAA, and is currently working with the title “EA Sports College Football”.
FIFA’s also been the source of a number of scandals over the past decade. Most notoriously, a 2015 corruption investigation saw a number of FIFA officials arrested for taking bribes and other crimes. More recently, FIFA decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar drew the ire of multiple human rights organizations.
FIFA now confirmed that they are ending their exclusive partnership with EA. FIFA says they are “engaging with various industry players, including developers, investors and analysts, to build out a long-term view of the gaming, eSports and interactive entertainment sector.”