FIFA, one of EA Sports’ most successful and longest-running sports game franchises, might soon be unable to use the FIFA name. According to a report in the New York Times, negotiations surrounding the licensing deal between the soccer governing body and the publishing giant are starting to crumble, with both sides citing grievances and desires that the other is unwilling to match. EA is reportedly already planning for a future without the FIFA name, though nothing is set in stone quite yet.
As it stands now, EA and FIFA have a licensing agreement that allows the publisher to use the FIFA name, logo, and World Cup paraphernalia in its soccer series of games. The agreement has been holding for three decades and is renewed each decade, and it makes both EA Sports and FIFA a significant amount of money every year. The most recent decade of the agreement is ending after the 2022 World Cup, and negotiations on how to continue have reportedly hit a wall.
There are two factors responsible for the slowdown: Money and exclusivity. FIFA is asking for over double the payout that it receives from each yearly installment of the game. Over a four-year World Cup cycle, this would amount to over $1 billion. As for the latter, FIFA would prefer to grant EA only the rights to use the name in its soccer games, but EA wants to explore other revenue streams with the FIFA name, including NFT sales, esports tournaments, and highlights of real-life soccer games.
EA has reason to be dissatisfied with the deal. The publisher wants to lean into microtransactions, but FIFA would rather sell the ability to do so to another company. EA is also dissatisfied that FIFA has expressed interest in making deals with other gaming companies for non-soccer-related games and content. Under the terms of the agreement, EA pays more in order to have exclusive rights to FIFA, so the company wanting to branch out to other developers is making EA question exactly what it is that they’d be paying for.
Though negotiations are not yet complete and a decision will most likely be made before the end of this year, EA has already trademarked the name EA Sports F.C. in the European Union and Britain, meaning that the company could already be anticipating the deal to fall through — or at least taking precautions in the event it does. Even if the negotiations dissolve, EA will still be able to use players’ models and teams in its games thanks to its hundreds of other licensing agreements with organizations around the world; its agreement with FIFA only allows it to use the FIFA name, logo and World Cup content.
Even so, a crumbled deal would cause FIFA lose a significant revenue stream, preventing the organization from building within the world of professional soccer and stalling some of its future plans. EA would also lose the extremely recognizable FIFA name, which is no doubt responsible for some of the game’s sales. As of right now, negotiations are still in progress, but it appears as though EA is reportedly planning for the worst.
A similar event happened a few years ago with Natsume and Marvelous’ previously well-regarded farming sim series Harvest Moon. As detailed in Polygon, publisher Natsume holds the rights to the name Harvest Moon and wanted to make its own entries in the franchise under the name, splitting from developer Marvelous in order to do so. Instead of ending it there, Marvelous continued to make Harvest Moon-style games under the Western name Story of Seasons. Neither series of games is doing particularly well these days, leaving the field open to games like Stardew Valley and the upcoming Coral Island to fill the farming sim void.