Andrew Wilson: “FIFA Is Just Four Letters On The Game’s Box!”

The CEO of Electronic Arts says the FIFA brand has set back their annual soccer game, which with FIFA 23 could put their licensing history behind them: this year could be their last game under the name.


VGC reported that Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson detailed that after thirty years, it might be better to break off from the FIFA license, and said in a company meeting in November that the license was holding back EA’s ambitions for soccer games! It’s not just 11v11 matches or broader digital economies that the publisher wants, and he says the company has only received four letters of value on their game box in a non-World Cup year by using the FIFA licence. The publisher (how surprising…) did not respond.

In October, the New York Times reported that negotiations between EA and FIFA had broken down, as they were seeking $2.5 billion for the licence over the next decade. If they don’t shake hands after this year’s World Cup in Qatar, FIFA 23 could be the end of EA Sports’ football game under that name, which will most likely continue as EA Sports FC 24 in autumn 2023, as that name has already been patented…

In an unusual manner from him, Wilson said the following in an internal meeting in November. It sounds so different that we have to quote what he said: “I’m going to be more open… more open than I’ve been with the outside world. We’ve had a great relationship with FIFA over the past 30-odd years. We’ve created billions in value… it’s just huge. We’ve created one of the most significant entertainment properties on the planet. I would argue – and this may be a little biased – that the FIFA brand has more meaning as a video game than it does a governing body of soccer. We don’t take that for granted, and we try not to be arrogant. We’ve worked hard to try and make FIFA understand what we need for the future.

What we get from FIFA in a non-World Cup year is the four letters on the front of the box, in a world where most people don’t even see the box anymore because they buy the game digitally. In a World Cup year, of course, we get access to the World Cup, but in the broader context of global football on an annualised basis, the World Cup is important, but it’s not the most important. We have 300 other licences that give us the content that our players engage with most deeply.

As we’ve looked to the future, we want to grow the franchise, and ironically the FIFA licence has impeded that. Our players tell us they want more cultural and commercial brands relevant to them in their markets, more deeply embedded in the game… brands like Nike. But because FIFA has a relationship with Adidas, we cannot do that. Our players tell us they want more modes of play, different things beyond 11v11 and different types of gameplay. I would say to you. It’s been a fight to get FIFA to acknowledge the kinds of things we want to create because they say our licence only covers specific categories.

Our players want us to expand into the digital ecosystem more broadly… our fans are telling us they want us to go and participate in that space. Our FIFA licence has precluded us from doing a lot of this stuff. Again, FIFA is just the name on the box, but they’ve prevented our ability to branch into the areas that players want.

Our players tell us they want us to move quickly: ‘we want you guys doing stuff fast’. And to do that, we need a level of freedom to be truly creative, innovative and experiment in the marketplace. Because of the nature of the approval timetables and the various things around our FIFA licence, that’s been hard, and we’re moving much slower than we want.

I had a conversation with [FIFA president] Gianni Infantino just a couple of weeks ago where I said, ‘Listen, the money’s a thing: we don’t want to pay more money than this licence is worth. But it’s not about that; it’s really about our ability to deliver games and experiences that our fans want, in a timely fashion’. I don’t know if we’re going to get there. Ironically, if we don’t, and we’re able to rebrand our game and take control of this global football ecosystem that we’re going to build, ironically, we’ll probably generate more revenue, have more fans, and have more engagement over time. Because we’ll be able to work with more partners, we’ll build more modes of play. We’ll be able to expand more deeply and broadly into the digital ecosystems around the fabric of football, and more than anything, we’ll be able to move fast. We’re going to work through this, we’re going to be thoughtful, and we want to be good partners with FIFA, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we ultimately move in a different direction. I think that might even be better for our gamers than continuing with those four letters on the box,” Wilson said.

These comments don’t sound like Wilson’s near android-like comments in public. So it seems the FIFA license is gone, but Ultimate Team remains to plague the experience…

Source: VGC

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