By ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer
LONDON (AP) – The name “FIFA” is reminiscent of images of the World Cup and most famous soccer players, such as Pele, Zinedine Zidane or Lionel Messi. The acronym of the governing body of sport may also remind some of the shameless bribery and corruption.
For most, though, this is the video game similar to FIFA.
For three decades, the Switzerland -based soccer body has enjoyed a thriving, mutually beneficial relationship with EA Sports. The annual edition of the video game, along with related products, has grossed billions of dollars and proved to be so much revenue that FIFA thought it could even make it on its own.
FIFA has cut its licensing deal with Electronic Arts Inc. on Tuesday, making FIFA23 EA’s last new game with a two-side relationship.
They have now become adversaries.
EA will continue to make soccer games with the best players and biggest teams, just take them under the FIFA brand and call them EA Sports FC instead.
Confusingly, perhaps, FIFA24 should also be on the shelves next year as the soccer body is determined to continue its own launch.
EA has already begun to highlight its advantages over the FIFA game, as it has the right to feature 19,000 players from more than 700 teams in more than 30 leagues playing in 100 stadiums. Manchester United, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain are still there, along with their best players.
“That’s the only place you can have a truly, famous and fully representative football experience,” David Jackson, vice president of the brand for EA SPORTS FIFA, told The Associated Press. “I think there’s an element of potential market confusion.”
The hyperbole from FIFA is already trying to cut EA’s sales by claiming that it is talking to several rival gaming companies and has plans to enter the metaverse.
“I can assure you,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said, “that the only real, real game with the FIFA name is the most accessible for football players and fans.”
It’s unclear how that will be achieved, even if FIFA retains the rights to the world’s biggest soccer show. The World Cup will be lost in the EA game.
“FIFA’s name is the same worldwide, original title,” Infantino said. “FIFA 23, FIFA 24, FIFA 25 and FIFA 26, etc. – has always been the name of FIFA and it will last forever and remain the best.”
That kind of bombastic talk puts pressure on FIFA to give Infantino a vision for a game that is snatching away the EA franchise even without the right to appear in leagues like the Premier League- and the teams that play it.
“New entrants will face a long licensing curve to compete with EA,” said Andrew Marok, an analyst who covers the digital media sector at investment bank Raymond James.
The game of soccer is big business for EA. The annual report released this week shows revenue of $ 6.19 billion.
“We’ve just had our biggest year – ever – for EA SPORTS FIFA games,” EA Sports CEO Andrew Wilson told investors on Wednesday, a day after it was announced that the FIFA deal would end at the end of the year.
A large portion of the revenue comes from Ultimate Team mode, where customers purchase additional content on EA sports games. That generated $ 1.623 billion in 2021.
“We have historically gotten a significant portion of our net revenue from sales related to our biggest and most popular game, FIFA, the annual versions of which have always been one of the best -selling games on the market, “EA told investors.
Brand loyalty will be key starting next year. Will players stick to EA’s rebranded product or jump on the FIFA-launched rivalry?
It is already a competitive market in eFootball, the former Pro Evolution Soccer game developed by Japanese firm Konami. That game has a partnership with Manchester United, even if the record 20 -time English champions will still appear in the EA game through a Premier League deal.
EA has already warned its investors of the business risks of playing soccer from rivals.
“Any events or circumstances that negatively affect our FIFA franchise, such as the quality of the product or service, other products that take up a portion of consumers’ spending and time, the delay or cancellation of a product or service launches, increased competition for primary licenses, or real. or perceived security risks, could negatively affect our financial results to a disproportionate extent, ” said EA in its annual report.
EA should get a stake in FIFA by retaining 300 licensing partners, 30 leagues and federations, 700 teams and 19,000 athletes, JPMorgan analyst David Karnovsky said in a note to the client.
“While it’s hard to imagine that there won’t be even the slightest impact from the brand transfer to the sale, the $ 150 million available from the loss of FIFA’s license fee provides plenty of room for marketing to raise awareness around EA. Sports FC, ”Karnovsky wrote.
Removing oneself from the world of soccer politics has benefits for EA. Tensions between the regional confederations have led European body UEFA and South American counterpart CONMEBOL to avoid FIFA to launch their own meeting of the champions. Finalissima’s debut will see Italy and Argentina meet at Wembley Stadium in London on June 1. It doesn’t seem appropriate for EA to promote FIFA’s game in the match.
“What name would we put on the perimeter board of a UEFA-CONMEBOL event? It would be very difficult for us to put FIFA there,” said Jackson, vice president of the EA brand. “The former was a springboard for our brand. , and an acceleration of it many years ago, has become less valuable to us over time. “
EA may have saved the FIFA brand as well. The tendency to associate the video game with many fans balanced against the toxicity of the Sepp Blatter-era organization after the opening of a wide-ranging criminal investigation into soccer corruption in 2015.
“If you ask a young football fan what FIFA is, they’re more likely to say a video game than they are the global governing body, but that amount stays with us, in my opinion. faith, “Jackson said. “We’re the leading voice in the football world from an interactive entertainment perspective, and we don’t see a world where that changes.”
Associated Press author Michelle Chapman in New York contributed to this report.
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