FIFA and EA Sports Go Separate Ways After Long Partnership

After months of negotiations, Electronic Arts’s EA Sports and the FIFA World Cup governing body are parting ways after nearly three successful decades of game collaboration that generated tens of billions of dollars in revenue and helped popularize professional soccer around the world. Having decided not to renew the partnership with a new contract, the parties have agreed to extend the existing contract — which was to end in December after the World Cup in Qatar — through the summer of 2023 and the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Through a lengthy collaboration that developed along with the modern video-game industry, the partnership “had created not so much a wildly popular game as a cultural phenomenon,” writes The New York Times, which says the split follows “months of tense negotiations” between the parties.

After the deal expires, EA says its 150 million FIFA gamers will still be able to play under a renamed series: “EA Sports FC.” The company says fans will still be able to game with the world’s most famous clubs and stars, with which EA has separate licensing deals, but NYT writes that “the World Cup itself and other FIFA-controlled events will no longer be included.”

“This new independent platform will bring fresh opportunity to innovate, create and evolve,” EA Sports executive vice president and group general manager Cam Weber said in a statement reported by CNN, noting “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.”

Generations around the world became acquainted with professional soccer via EA’s games, emphasizing “the seismic nature of the rebranding.” Not surprisingly, the split reportedly came down to money. EA’s FIFA games “have generated more than $20 billion in sales over the past two decades,” according to NYT, which says “FIFA was seeking at least double the $150 million it gets annually from EA Sports, its biggest commercial partner.”

FIFA also felt EA’s request for exclusivity would limit FIFA’s digital options, according to NYT, which writes that “new platforms have emerged that hold the promise of potentially important revenue streams,” adding that FIFA “has already agreed a number of contracts for soccer-themed games, some of which it plans to roll out before the end of this year.”

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