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EA FC 24 - FIFA Without FIFA

Cover art for EA FC24 Ultimate Edition (via Wikipedia)

September 29th brings with it the previously unthinkable- at least if you grew up playing FIFA on the console of your choice. While the basic gameplay, by all accounts, won't have changed much from the last few seasons, the often lucrative FIFA branding itself will be absent- EA FC 24 the first fruits of EA Sports breaking away from world football's governing body after an initial extension to cover the release of FIFA 23 last season.

 

 

 

And so, a partnership which began as far back as 1993 with FIFA International Soccer is at an end. But why have Gianni Infantino and chums stuck the boot in, after twenty years of staving off all comers season after season to maintain the game's position at the top of most people's virtual tables?

 

 

The answer in itself may not come as a surprise, but is no less depressing given what seems to drive FIFA itself more than love of the game itself- money! EA Sports was already paying a mind- boggling $150 million a year to allow use of the name as part of their product, and as of last year the venerable old Federation Internationale de Football Association decided they wanted double that to carry on the licensing agreement…

 

 

In light of which EA quite understandably started questioning the real- term value of what was becoming an expensive arrangement. CEO Andrew Wilson is reported to have told employees that the company didn't consider themselves to be getting value for money, pointing out, not unreasonably, that “Basically, what we get from FIFA in a non-World Cup year is the four letters on the front of the box, in a world where most people don’t even see the box any more because they buy the game digitally.”

 

 

1-0 to the developers, then. The further we look into the issue it seems that it's FIFA who actually have more to lose from severing ties. Several other sponsors are believed to be looking again at their own deals, not least Budweiser after the last- minute decision to ban the sale of alcohol in host stadiums during last year's World Cup in Qatar, around 48 hours before the opening game!

 

 

Little wonder then that David Jackson, also of EA, put it so succinctly in saying “The fundamental choice for us was the freedom to be able to operate in a way that we know our players and our fans are looking for, or hold on to a naming convention that was very valuable, but maybe in the future less so.”

 

 

In other words, we can make a decent game of it without those running it getting in the way! Two tap-ins for those who've done the real work, then. But in the interest of fair play, surely FIFA's response must at least be considered- and in true Infantino style he's come out fighting, confirming that they're exploring other options and that the result will be “the only authentic, real game that has the FIFA name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans.”

 

 

Only, there hasn't been much movement on that front despite the bluster.

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.”

 


He's even gone so far as to suggest that any rival game could be up and running by as early as next year. An unrealistic proposition given the reality of game development in itself and something which could take even longer should FIFA want to go the whole hog and bankroll the setting up of its own in- house studio. An option that, although not unrealistic in itself, could cause a damaging hiatus in production given that they want to stick to the regularity of a game a year.

 

 

On the practical points of developing any such FIFA alternative, though, the Guardian's Pushing Buttons newsletter may just be able to put old Gianni in his place a touch!

 

 

In its own article on the EA- FIFA split, it calls his latest bout of grandstanding “hilarious. He seems to believe that in one year’s time, other developers will be able to create football video games that are just as good as the ones that EA has poured actual decades of technical expertise and research into.

 

How long’s it going to take for someone else to scan hundreds of player models, Gianni? How about recreating all the stadiums, all the strips, all the other detailed hallmarks that make EA’s FIFA so authentic?

 

FIFA’s millions of players love to argue about the tiny changes to the rhythm of play that come with every year’s iteration but ultimately, this is an extraordinary football simulation built on a peerless technical foundation and a huge amount of effort.

 

You can’t just farm out the licence to someone else and expect them to come up with anything like EA Sports’ FIFA, especially not in two years or less. “

 

 

So, it would appear EA holds the advantage, having also cannily retained its existing deals with the likes of the Bundesliga and Premier League, granting the rights to use official team/ player names having invested a not insubstantial around £500 million as part of a recent renegotiation.

 

 

Clubs were reportedly told at a meeting in February that a six year extension was close to being signed, allowing them to remain as an official digital partner. A deal bringing in an estimated £80 million to the league's coffers annually- so much more to it than a mere patch on a referee's sleeve and FIFA left for dust by their own hubris!

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