Breakup

FIFA and EA might break up after 28 years — but EA could keep the die-hard fans

Thursday, October 21, 2021 by Robinhood Snacks |
A FIFA by any other name would play as sweet [Dmytro Aksonov/E+ via Getty Images]

A FIFA by any other name would play as sweet [Dmytro Aksonov/E+ via Getty Images]

It’s getting Messi… A breakup between a soccer power couple could be coming. Video-game giant Electronic Arts (EA) and soccer org FIFA have released a new FIFA game together for 28 years, making FIFA the best-selling sports-game franchise ever. Fans love that FIFA lets them play with friends while rooting for their favorite teams. But EA is reportedly considering walking out on its longtime teammate.

Trouble in the FIFA-verse… EA has made $20B+ from the FIFA franchise over the past 30 years or so, and FIFA currently makes $150M in yearly licensing fees from EA. But their 10-year contract ends after next year’s World Cup in Qatar, and they can’t agree on a new deal. Here’s why:

  • Putting the “fee” in FIFA: FIFA wants to double the yearly licensing fee it charges EA to use its name.
  • Open relationship: EA wants exclusive rights to develop FIFA extensions like arena gaming tourneys and NFTs, but FIFA wants to limit EA and launch its own ventures.
  • Uneven split: FIFA, a nonprofit, made more than half its nearly $270M in revenue last year from its EA deal. But EA, which is valued at $40B, made $5.5B last year distributing several hit games like Madden, The Sims, and Apex Legends.
  • New partners: EA has already lined up 300+ partners from national leagues to players’ unions, and filed to trademark “EA Sports FC.” Now, FIFA could start looking for a new gaming partner like Epic Games or Activision Blizzard.
THE TAKEAWAY

You need the name to join the game… But you only need loyal fans to keep playing. EA leveraged FIFA’s brand to generate buzz and build a huge global fan base: More than 31M people have played FIFA 21 since it launched last fall. But EA’s games themselves are what keep fans plugged in. Most sports fans don’t abandon their teams when they trade star players; EA hopes customers show similar loyalty.