It is impossible that there is anyone who has not heard about the most mediatic breakup of the videogame. EA has dropped its FIFA license and so its game is no longer called FIFA, but EA Sports FC. What is probably not so well known is all that this entails for EA and what is on the table and what they are leaving behind by making this decision. Because never in the history of video gaming, nor of modern capitalism, has there been a branding disruption like this before. And as such, it is worth studying its reasons and its implications.
The first FIFA, FIFA International Soccer, was released in 1993 for the SEGA Mega Drive. Since then it became one of the two big soccer titles, to the point that, by the beginning of the following decade, the numbers they commanded were dizzying. According to a study by Ampere Anylisis, by 2010 the FIFA franchise had a net worth of $513 million. By 2020, it was already worth $2 billion.
That is to say, a priori, it does not seem to make much sense to dissociate from a brand that generates so much value lightly. So what has happened to make them decide to change the name? EA has decided to dispense with the organization’s license.
Normally, FIFA offers companies its license to make products under its brand for four-year periods, coinciding with the frequency of the World Cup. At the time of the license renewal, according to New York Times sources, FIFA wanted EA to double the $150 million it already paid them annually for the license. Something the multinational company refused to do.
What are the consequences of this? Essentially, they cannot use the FIFA brand. Neither the name nor the logo nor the World Cup competition. But nothing else. So the blow is hard, but not insurmountable: the 19,000 players, 700 teams and 30 leagues they have registered can continue to be represented in the game, because the image licenses are not managed by FIFA itself. Therefore, EA hopes that with this change, and with a great emphasis on advertising, they will be able to make a change to their own brand in a way that does not significantly impact their income. All this while getting rid of a partner that was no longer proving profitable.
Whether it will work or not remains to be seen. EA has made a laudable effort because EA Sports FC 24 is present in all the places where someone can doubt whether that game is FIFA or not. But habit is strong. And getting it out of people’s heads that they are playing El Fifa might be harder than EA thinks.