EA CEO Says Its Soccer Games Are Being Held Back by FIFA License

EA CEO Andrew Wilson reportedly told his staff in November 2021 that the FIFA license was “an obstacle” to EA’s hopes for its football games.

Citing sources familiar with the conversation, VideoGamesChronicle reports that Wilson told staff in an internal meeting that FIFA (the organization) kept EA from expanding FIFA (games) into additional modes beyond the standard 11 vs. 11 or “broader digital ecosystems.” Wilson was also reported to have stated that the only value EA received from FIFA in a non-World Cup year was “four letters on the front of the box”.

“I’m going to be more open…more open than I’ve been with the outside world,” Wilson reportedly said when asked why EA is considering breaking away from FIFA. “We have had a great relationship with FIFA for the past 30+ years. We’ve created billions of worth… it’s just huge. We have created one of the largest entertainment complexes on the planet. I would say – and this may be a bit biased – that the FIFA brand matters more like a video game than as the governing body of football. We don’t take it for granted and try not to be arrogant. We have worked very hard to help FIFA understand what we need in the future.”

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This is another part of the longstanding feud between EA and the FIFA organization, which more recently, FIFA appears to have challenged EA’s football monopoly. In October 2021, the organization released a statement calling itself “bullish” on “the future of gaming and esports”. The statement also denounced EA’s influence in the football video game market, which had vastly surpassed its only competitor, Pro Evolution Soccer. FIFA reportedly wants to charge EA over $1 billion a year for FIFA brand rights.

EA currently has a 10-year naming agreement with FIFA, but it could expire without renewal after this year’s World Cup in Qatar, making FIFA 23 potentially EA Sports’ last FIFA-branded soccer game.

“Our players are telling us they need more cultural and commercial brands that are relevant to them in their markets, more deeply embedded in the game…brands like Nike. But since FIFA has a relationship with Adidas, we can’t do that,” Wilson said. there was a fight to get FIFA to recognize the types of things we want to build because they say our license only covers certain categories.”Wilson also said that FIFA hinders EA’s ability to quickly adapt to player requirements and add new features or content.

“Our players tell us they want us to move really fast: ‘We want you guys to move fast. And for that, we need a level of freedom to be truly creative, innovative, and experimenting in the market,” Wilson said.

He added that EA wants to be a “good partner” for FIFA, but “I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up going in a different direction.“IGN has reached out to EA for comment and will update the story if we get a response.

Joseph Knoop is a writer/producer for IGN.

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