Why EA Sports FC and EA’s departure from FIFA is good news for football esports fans

fifa 22

You might think EA Sports losing the FIFA license could upset its dominance, but look deeper and you’ll see it’s actually an opportunity to reach another level – particularly in esports – writes Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco in this column

A real gamer might not feel the need to tell you they’re a gamer, just as a true esports expert won’t call themselves one. So forgive me for having no faith in FIFA when they say the FIFA-titled games in the future will be “the only authentic [football] games which will remain forever and remain THE BEST” (their words – and capitals – not mine).

Sorry, FIFA, but I’m going to stick with the publisher that has around three decades of experience producing football games over your vision to produce FIFA games beyond the usual football simulation titles.

EA don’t need to say their football games are the best, that’s because they already are.

Yes, EA aren’t perfect, of course they aren’t – poor customer service, Origin, failure to communicate well with their players, bizarre AI, the greed around loot boxes in games (and don’t get me started on their ‘surprise mechanics’ reasoning) – but they generally know how to make decent games, with a combination of solid gameplay and polish.

EA’s football games are synonymous with the name FIFA. And it’s going to be unusual for them to have a different name. But FIFA 23 will be the last game EA make with the FIFA license. In the future these games will be known as EA Sports FC.

You might think EA Sports FC games won’t be as good without the FIFA license. But let me remind you, back in the day, PES was the king of football games, and once upon a time those games suffered with a lack of licenses – Netherlands players were known as ‘Oranges 1 and Oranges 2 etc’, Arsenal were ‘North London Red’ and player names were changed to comedic effect.

Cam Weber, EVP and group GM for EA Sports and Racing, says EA will still have the license “for 19,000+ players, 700+ teams, 100+ stadiums and 30 leagues, including partnerships with the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, the MLS, Nike, UEFA and more to come”.

“This new independent platform will bring fresh opportunity – to innovate, create and evolve,” adds Cam. “This is much more than just a change of symbol – as EA Sports, we’re committed to ensuring EA Sports FC is a symbol of change. We’re dedicated to meaningfully reinvesting in the sport, and we’re excited to work with a large and increasing number of partners to expand to new authentic experiences that bring joy, inclusivity and immersion to a global community of fans.

“EA Sports FC will allow us to realize this future and much more… but not before we deliver our most expansive game ever with our current naming rights partner, FIFA, for one more year.”

And it will be one of the most unique FIFA games in more ways than one – it will feature the men’s and women’s FIFA World Cup competitions in one edition for the first time.

So, EA are hoping to do more of the same, to fine-tune their football games and keep their players happy.

FIFA, meanwhile, are going in a different direction.

They want to launch a portfolio of new football games with various third-party studios and publishers to ‘bring new, interactive experiences to fans across the globe, including ‘a number of new non-simulation games’.

When I hear this term, I think of crappy casual games on mobile, I think of weird experiential virtual activities and spin-off games. Shovelware, basically. Feel free to prove me wrong FIFA, but I can’t say I’m filled with optimism.

FIFA say they’ve granted EA with a license for ‘the simulation football category only’ for the FIFA 23 game, and are ‘currently engaging with leading game publishers, media companies and investors in regard to the development of a major new FIFA simulation football game title for 2024’.

“I can assure you that the only authentic, real game that has the FIFA name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans. The FIFA name is the only global, original title. FIFA 23, FIFA 24, FIFA 25 and FIFA 26, and so on – the constant is the FIFA name and it will remain forever and remain THE BEST.”

Gianni Infantino, FIFA

They no longer want to work with one publisher exclusively on games and esports, but a range of partners.

Gianni Infantino, FIFA president, said: “I can assure you that the only authentic, real game that has the FIFA name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans. The FIFA name is the only global, original title. FIFA 23, FIFA 24, FIFA 25 and FIFA 26, and so on – the constant is the FIFA name and it will remain forever and remain THE BEST.”

“The interactive gaming and esports sector is on a path of unrivalled growth and diversification. FIFA’s strategy is to ensure we can make the most of all future options and ensure a wide range of products and opportunities for gamers, fans, member associations and partners.”

EA’s new esports opportunity

EA actually have a golden opportunity in esports in breaking away from FIFA.

I understand that FIFA have been pretty tight with restrictions around esports team sponsors in the past, as they do not want to upset their existing main sponsors, like Coca Cola etc.

EA going it alone will allow them to remove some of this red tape, and give greater freedom to teams participating in EA Sports FC esports tournaments in the future.

FIFA have been rigid around esports in the past in other ways. It took a few years to get decent prize pools in FIFA esports tournaments, it took FIFA players and managers and others complaining to get a prize pool added in the ePremier League, for example.

My feeling is this was more of a FIFA decision than EA’s. Look at Apex Legends – EA have been doing some good work in Apex esports. The recent $1m Apex Legends Global Series Split 2 playoffs – won by a UK emergency sub player – were impressive. I’d like to see EA handle a football esports event purely by themselves or with their production partners.

play for elions fifa 2020
Tekkz (left) and Tom (right): The UK has some fantastic FIFA esports talent – my money is on them sticking with EA Sports FC over FIFA’s new titles, but time will tell

Let’s not forget, EA also own Codemasters these days, and the F1 esports side of things has improved well in recent years.

EA making football esports more like the Apex and F1 broadcasts, expanding the broadcasts and trying new things could do wonders for the future of football esports.

The breakaway also means more choice for esports fans. More competition in a market usually means better quality options too, as rivals push one another to produce better broadcasts.

I see FIFA’s esports initiatives going more in the direction of the Olympics and Commonwealth-style esports tournaments in the future. Posh, very sports-like and lots of lovely PR – but are they what the esports purists really want to watch? I think EA will generally place an emphasis on what the gamers and football fans want.

But, both sides’ shortcomings will come from their greed and arrogance, in my opinion. It’s a shame that PES/eFootball is looking rather weak at the moment, as it could have been a perfect time for Konami to strike.

Whoever wins, the beautiful game is evolving, and I’m looking forward to seeing who scores the first goal in this new age of football esports.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments