The 2022/23 football season has been nothing short of incredible. In both the Premier League and the Bundesliga, there have been title races of epic proportions. On the European stage, we have also seen plenty of shocks, and the world is holding its collective breath for the upcoming UEFA Champions League final, which will see Manchester City face off against Inter Milan in Istanbul.
The international scene has been just as spectacular. Last December, we saw one of the greatest FIFA World Cups in recent memory, a tournament that culminated with Lionel Messi securing his legacy as the greatest soccer player to have ever laced a pair of boots when he led his beloved Argentina to glory in Qatar. Despite being 35 years of age, the former Barcelona star was at his imperious best throughout the showdown in the desert, racking up seven goals and three assists en route to being named the Player of the Tournament.
Within the soccer gaming landscape, there has been one dominant force throughout the last three decades. EA Sports’ FIFA franchise has become one of the most beloved video games of all time. However, from September onwards, the series — and the video game landscape as a whole — will change forever.
FIFA and EA Cut Ties
That’s because last summer, it was announced that EA, the American games publisher, and FIFA, world football’s governing body, will be going separate ways. The pair have been closely tied together since the start of the 1990s, but at the culmination of the ongoing season, that relationship will end. With the pair’s rights deal coming to an end, Gianni Infantino announced that he was looking to secure a new deal worth as much as $1bn for a three-year deal, an amount of money that EA was simply unwilling to pay.
Infantino has decided to gamble with the future of the FIFA name within the gaming world, and as of right now, the gamble is yet to pay off. To steal a phrase from the epic table games found at Joe Fortune Australia, he has gone all in. But whether he comes up with the $1bn he has requested remains to be seen.
For anyone that has watched Netflix’s FIFA Uncovered documentary, you will already know that the powers that be within world football have had a nefarious past when it comes to finances. There have been fraud and bribery scandals, scandals which rocked the game to its very core and saw several influential members within the modern game not only stripped of their roles but in some cases, thrown into prison. As such, it should come as no surprise that FIFA’s financial dealings are once again making global headlines.
But what does it mean for the beloved soccer franchise? Will there even be a soccer game for fans to feast on this fall?
EA Sports FC
Well to put it bluntly, yes, there will be. You can all let out a massive sigh of relief now. Although for the spouses of those obsessed with FIFA, we apologize that you will have another year of FIFA rage to endure.
EA Sports have confirmed that their franchise will indeed live on, however, it will be rebranded so that it no longer features the FIFA name. The new franchise will be known as EA Sports FC (with the FC standing for football club), and you can expect to see the same gameplay as you are already used to.
Things could look quite different, however. The game has already signed a number of rights deals, including securing deals with the Premier League and the English Football League. Their ongoing partnership with UEFA — which has seen the Champions League, Europa League, and Europa Conference League — feature in recent installments of the series, is expected to continue also.
In theory, then, that should mean that next summer’s UEFA Euro 2024 tournament should also feature in the upcoming EA Sports FC release. FIFA 23 was commended for its integration of the recent World Cup into the game, with a specific Qatar 2022 game mode, as well as a whole host of special cards, objectives, and challenges available within Ultimate Team, the main game mode within FIFA. But what of the FIFA name itself?
As of right now, FIFA is yet to sign a new rights deal with any game producer, and that is why Infantino’s gamble is yet to pay off. It is thought that the $1bn price tag is putting off a number of top producers. However, there is one company that is thought to be the frontrunner to secure the rights, should they so wish.
That company is, of course, 2K Sports. The California-based outfit has been producing sports games for decades now, and both their NBA 2K series, as well as WWE 2K, are market leaders. They are the only company thought to have enough money to match the asking price to secure the FIFA name, but whether they decide to stump up the cash remains to be seen.
World football’s governing body will be left with eggs on their collective faces should no one decide to secure the official rights to the video game. And if that does happen, don’t be surprised to see a U-Turn, and Infantino come back to EA with his tail tucked between his legs.