Electronic Arts is one of the few major companies to walk away from FIFA and the commercial rights it controls — and the video game publisher is being rewarded handsomely for its choice.
The company has generated more than 6.8 million paid signups for pre-release access to “EA Sports FC,” the rebranded name for the “FIFA” video game series that ran annually for nearly three decades and became the world’s top-selling sports video game. That’s a 25% boost from comparable figures last year.
The first title in the new series, “EA Sports FC 24,” was released on Friday.
Last year, EA’s decision to produce a top-tier soccer video game without FIFA branding not only represented the almost unheard-of decision to part from global soccer’s governing body, but also sparked a vitriolic response. FIFA angrily declared that “the only authentic, real game that has the FIFA name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans.”
Gamers and fans obviously feel differently.
The sales results, however, are hardly an accident, as EA is supporting the debut of “EA Sports FC” with unprecedented marketing support for a new game title. “We are literally rallying the entire company behind this launch more than we ever have in the 40 years of the company’s history around any launch,” said EA CEO Andrew Wilson last month in a call.
EA was able to work around the FIFA branding for the game as it holds separate licensing contracts with more than 700 teams, 19,000 players, 100 stadiums, and 30 leagues across both men’s and women’s soccer. Thus, the content of the game itself is very much in line with recent editions.
The EA deal was worth about $150 million a year, making it FIFA’s largest commercial agreement outside the men’s World Cup. FIFA had reportedly been looking to at least double that figure in a new deal.