Last week, gaming giant EA announced that it's considering changing the name of their FIFA series, which is one of the biggest sports games on the planet. Understandably, this raised a lot of eyebrows for industry observers, but we have a hint as to why EA is considering such a big shift: FIFA wants to see more green.
A new report in the New York Times suggests that there is an ongoing dispute between EA and the real-life FIFA organization, which organizes the FIFA World Cup and is often described as the de facto governing body of association soccer.
Green on the pitch — According to NYT's report, the crux of the disagreement is this: FIFA wants to increase its payout from the series to $1 billion for each World Cup cycle, which takes place every four years. However, FIFA also wants EA to only have exclusive rights to the FIFA name in regards to the actual soccer game, which would presumably leave the organization free to negotiate with other parties for additional revenue. But EA apparently wants to use the FIFA name to start other ventures, including "arena video game tournaments" and — brace yourself — NFTs.
It's worth noting that this dispute relates to the FIFA name alone, and not the hundreds of real-life association soccer players and teams that appear in EA's game every year. As NYT notes, EA has more than 300 licensing agreements with the world's many soccer organizations, including UEFA, that govern those appearances. In this way, FIFA significantly differs from other licensed sports games, particularly EA's Madden NFL, which only relies on two license agreements: one with the NFL itself, and another with the NFL Players Association.
Risk tolerance — While it's probably a bit early to speculate, the fact that EA publicly noted that the name of the venerated soccer series may change at all would seem to indicate that this is a real possibility. However, it's unlikely that even a significant name change would challenge EA's soccer dominance in the video game space, especially if it can keep all of the rights to the teams and players that make it relevant to soccer fans around the world.
A similar dispute occurred when former college football players sued EA Sports and the NCAA over the use of their likenesses in EA's NCAA Football series. That suit, which ended in a $60 million class-action settlement, effectively ended the series with NCAA Football 14, but EA has recently indicated that it is working on a new college football video game that will just be called EA Sports College Football. It will apparently not feature real players, though it is possible that NCAA rules will change enough to allow EA to renegotiate. As long as there's money to be made, there's going to be a sports game every year: you can bet on it.