EA CEO seems very cold about losing the FIFA license

Photo: EA Sports

Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson reportedly told the cast that he feels the publisher might actually be better off losing FIFA license.

EA and FIFA have been partners for 30 years, but that relationship is in jeopardy as the pair don’t seem to agree on renewing the long-term deal.

As we covered back for a while, a The New York Times The report claimed that negotiations between the two companies had stalled, with sticking points being EA’s demands for broader rights and FIFA’s desire to double the current payment to $2.5 billion over the next decade. FIFA claims that the cost should rise as EA’s revenue from licensing increases exponentially as microtransactions become more common.

Shortly after the New York Times report appeared in October, Wilson convened an internal company meeting to explain EA’s position. Details of that meeting have been shared with VGC.

When asked at the meeting why EA would even consider ending the deal with FIFA, Wilson said:

I’ll be more open…more open than I was with the outside world. We have had a wonderful relationship with FIFA for the past 30 years. We’ve created billions in value…it’s just huge. We have created one of the largest entertainment venues on the planet.

I would argue – and this may be somewhat biased – that the FIFA brand has more meaning as a video game than as a football governing body. We don’t take that for granted and try not to be arrogant. We have worked hard to try to make FIFA understand what we need for the future.

Basically, what we get from FIFA in a non-World Cup year are the four letters on the front of the chest, in a world where most people don’t see the chest anymore because they buy the game digitally.

In a World Cup year of course we can get to the World Cup, but in the broader context of world football on an annual basis, the World Cup is important but not the most important. We have another 300 licenses that give us content our players will engage with more deeply and deeply.

Wilson went so far as to claim that licensing FIFA had actually hampered EA’s ambitions for its video game series:

While we were looking to the future, we wanted to grow the franchise, ironically, the FIFA licensing was actually a hindrance to that.

Our players tell us that they want more cultural and commercial brands relevant to them in their markets, and to be more rooted in the game…brands like Nike. But due to FIFA’s relationship with Adidas, we are unable to do so.

Our players tell us that they want more game modes, different things beyond 11v11, and different types of gameplay. I’d like to tell you, it’s been a battle to get FIFA to recognize the kinds of things we want to create, because they say our license only covers certain categories.

Our players want us to expand into the digital ecosystem on a larger scale… Our fans tell us that they want us to go and participate in this space.

In fact, our FIFA license prevented us from doing a lot of these things. Again, FIFA is just the name on the chest, but they’ve prevented our ability to branch out into the areas players want.

Our players tell us that they want us to move very quickly: “We want you guys to do things fast.” And in order to do that, we need a level of freedom to be truly creative, innovative and experimental in the marketplace.

Due to the nature of approval timelines and various things related to our FIFA license, that has been really difficult and we are moving a lot slower than we want to.

He adds that EA will not be subject to ransom when it comes to the amount FIFA is expected to pay for the rights:

I had a conversation with [FIFA president] Gianni Infantino just a couple of weeks ago where I said, “Listen, money is a thing: we don’t want to pay more money than this license is worth. But it’s not about that, it’s really about our ability to deliver the games and experiences that our fans want, at the right time.”

Wilson states that EA is eager to continue the relationship and is doing everything it can – but if it doesn’t, it might actually be better for the company and its fan base:

At the end of the day, I don’t know if we’ll get there. Paradoxically, if we don’t, we are able to remake our game and control this global soccer system that we’re going to build, and ironically maybe we’ll generate more revenue, have more fans, and have more involvement over time.

As we’ll be able to work with more partners, we’ll be able to build more patterns of play, we’ll be able to expand deeper and more broadly into digital ecosystems around the fabric of football, more than anything else. I will be able to move very quickly.

We’ll work through this, we’ll be thoughtful and want to be good partners with FIFA, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually moved in a different direction. At the end of the day, I think this might be better for our players than just keep writing the four letters on the box.

If negotiations fail, this could be the next FIFA 23 It will be the last game in the EA line to have the FIFA branding on the box. The 10-year deal expires after the World Cup finals in Qatar later this year.

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EA already has pointed out that if the license is lost, it will retain all other existing league, player and stadium licenses. FIFA responded with its own statementclaiming that it is open to working with other video game companies if the deal is not renewed.

EA has applied for multiple trademarks for EA Sports FCa Possible alternative name for the series.

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