Will FIFA and EA’s separation mean a master class in brand management?

With the news that Electronic Arts (EA) and FIFA are going their separate ways after three decades of license agreement, both EA and FIFA will now face a momentous task looking to rebrand their football games without each other. This solution could be easier said than done. The problem is that the annual football game from EA has become symbiotic with the name FIFA, so much so that the game is called FIFA with a numbered year suffix, such as FIFA 22. So, when someone says they are going to play FIFA, everyone knows it’s the EA football game. That will have to change from 2023. How damaging will this be to both parties? I would venture less so for EA and more so for FIFA.

The importance of FIFPro and licenses

After numerous years of building a loyal fan base, the FIFA games are the highest selling games in Europe, often ranking in as the top selling game in the year. A lot of the success is the fact EA cleverly made adjustments to the control mechanism when new versions of the game were released. The focus for the FIFA franchise was not to reinvent the wheel with every iteration of the game, but to double down on the immersion and experience of playing the game which mimicked real life team squads and changes in kit. It was the relevancy of the game that applied to the hordes of fans who would buy the same game every year. For EA that relevancy is not under threat with the loss of the FIFA license due to the complicated beast that is football licensing.

EA will continue to secure the rights to FIFPro (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels), an organization which owns the representation of 65,000 professional footballers and is made up of 67 national players' associations. More importantly for EA, FIFPro is independent of FIFA. This implies a huge advantage for EA’s football game.

Even with the loss of the FIFA brand, the game will continue to represent the likeness of the players.


When you add in that EA has over 300 licenses which include UEFA’s Champions League, the Premier League, Bundesliga, and LaLiga Santander, it is safe to say EA’s football game will continue to resemble its FIFA games in all but name.


A sparse competition

EA is banking that its product is bigger than the brand name FIFA and given the scale to replicate the success EA has had with its FIFA games, EA is in a relatively comfortable position. That is not to say the road for EA will be smooth sailing. EA could see a hit on revenue with some consumers not willing to buy the football game unless it has that association with FIFA, but EA knows the competition is sparse. Apart from Konami’s eFootball, consumers will have little or no choice to play a multi-faceted AAA football game, come October 2023. Even if FIFA were to strike up a new deal with another publisher, the issue of FIFPro and all the other license agreements with the numerous football associations will have to be met.

History is on the side of EA. After expanding its licensing agreements for the last three decades, any competition to EA’s football game will have a huge task of catching up.


It could be so expensive to develop a rival football game to EA, it may become fruitless. For example, in the past, some gamers have praised Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer as being the superior game to FIFA in terms of gameplay mechanics, but because Konami did not have the licenses to use lifelike names or appearances, Pro Evolution Soccer was considered by many to be the inferior game. Gamers wanted to play Manchester United, not Team Red Manchester.

There is also the added advantage that EA has that many gamers have invested in the FIFA franchise with FUT cards (Football Ultimate Team) and microtransactions. Although EA does not specifically mention how much money consumers spend on FUT cards, worldwide spending on Live Services reached over $4 billion in EA’s fiscal 2021 year and accounted for over 70% of their total worldwide revenue. That is a lot of consumer investment, not just in monetary terms, but in the time and effort to build these virtual teams. Within a month of FIFA 22 release, EA put out a statement that the game recorded the highest ever player engagement in the franchise history. To ask those gamers to move away from this level of investment to a new FIFA game, made by some other company, will not be easy.

FIFA in mobile gaming?

As a consequence, it looks like it will be FIFA that will have the greater struggle in establishing a new football game that will utilize their license. From their recent statement, FIFA are bullish about their prospects in video games, “[we are] engaging with various industry players, including developers, investors and analysts, to build out a long-term view of the gaming, eSports and interactive entertainment sector.” When it comes to AAA video gaming on consoles and the PC, their options are probably few and far between, so it is likely that FIFA will be eyeing mobile gaming for their future video game endeavors.

Mobile gaming could give FIFA a wider and somewhat less discerning audience. It would also allow the association to tap into the microtransaction spending market, which was one of the reasons as to why they broke up with EA.


The association can see there is a lot of money to be made in gaming and with the rise in non-fungible token (NFT) spending, FIFA could very well utilize its brand name to position itself in this lucrative business.

Both EA and FIFA will have their work cut out in re-inventing their brand without each other. For EA the challenge will be to vent all the support and brand awareness into their new name but without the need to reinvent the game. In the same week news broke about their divorce. EA filed a patent for the name “EA Sports FC”, so maybe that will be the new name for the franchise? For FIFA, the association will need to find a new home in video games. It will have to build relationships with developers and publishers to create a new game that can be differentiated from EA’s current football game but to retain the spark which has made the FIFA video game franchise one of the best-selling video games in the world.

Between the two, I would venture EA will have the easier road to travel.

Sam Naji