HomeGamingEA and Fifa’s 30-year video game union at risk in battle over...

EA and Fifa’s 30-year video game union at risk in battle over name

Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan reacts in front of a EA Sports FIFA 21 video game  billboard advertising during the Serie A football match between AC Milan and Torino FC in 2021.
Enlarge / Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan reacts in front of a EA Sports FIFA 21 video game billboard advertising during the Serie A football match between AC Milan and Torino FC in 2021.

Nicolò Campo | LightRocket | Getty Images

For millions of football fans, “FIFA” refers not to the sport’s international governing body, but to their favorite video game.

The connection was formed 30 years ago, when California-based Electronic Arts licensed the name of Zurich-headquartered FIFA. The game is now played by 100 million people worldwide, has become a multibillion-dollar business, and is a cultural phenomenon.

Despite the long and profitable association, the two sides are in a bitter dispute over the value of the FIFA name. “We are not certain that we will move forward with FIFA as a naming rights partner,” David Jackson, a senior executive who runs EA’s football brand, told the Financial Times.

Jackson said “the name FIFA lives in the minds of many young players around the world,” but that it had “lots and lots of players… we don’t see a reason why that would change in the future.”

In preparation, the company has trademarked the name “EA Sports F.C.” across Europe and plans to make a final decision on what to call its football franchise by the end of the year.

The battle highlights growing tension as some within the sport seek a greater share from the game’s enormous success.

Mino Raiola, the super-agent who represents footballers including Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba, has said hundreds of players want to sue EA over the use of their identities within FIFA. In recent years, Juventus has pulled out of the game, alongside other Italian clubs such as Roma and Lazio. EA said it had contractual rights to include the likeness of all players currently in its game.

Romelu Lukaku of FC Internazionale clashes with Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan during the Coppa Italia match between FC Internazionale and AC Milan at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 26, 2021 in Milan, Italy.
Enlarge / Romelu Lukaku of FC Internazionale clashes with Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan during the Coppa Italia match between FC Internazionale and AC Milan at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 26, 2021 in Milan, Italy.

Marco Luzzani | Getty

Gareth Sutcliffe, from media analyst company Enders Analysis, said “the economics of the game are fantastic.” But he added there were only so many battles that EA could pick with football bodies.

“You don’t want to be in a position where all of a sudden you’re beginning to unpick [naming] arrangements,” he said.

Console owners pay up to $70 to buy each new iteration of FIFA released every year, though there are also free-to-play mobile versions. At the end of September, it had 36 million unique “entitlements,” meaning people who have signed into FIFA 21, the version of the game released in October last year. This compares with 35.3 million at the end of September for FIFA 20.

EA said 27 percent of FIFA 21 players have made “in-game” purchases, such as through “Ultimate Team,” where gamers spend money to improve their squads to compete against others online. Analysts suggest Ultimate Team is worth about $1.5 billion a year for EA.

FIFA has tried to leverage this to demand a significant increase from the roughly $150 million it receives from EA each year, according to people familiar with the negotiations, after the video game company’s 10-year contract to use the name expires at the end of the men’s World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

RELATED ARTICLES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments