Electronic Arts says it is considering a potential renaming of the iconic FIFA series of games. "This means we're reviewing our naming rights agreement with FIFA," EA’s head of sports games, Cam Weber, said in a blog post, "which is separate from all our other official partnerships and licenses across the football world."
What seems like a major announcement was buried in an otherwise standard blog post touting the successful launch of FIFA 22. But even if the FIFA series does get a rebrand, the game won’t likely change in any other significant ways. EA owns the licensing rights to feature an array of official soccer leagues in its games, letting gamers play as professionals in the English Premier League and UEFA Champions, among other leagues. The next game might just not be called FIFA.
"Through years of building our global franchise, we also know that authenticity is essential to the experience," Weber continued. "That's why we focus so much energy on the collective strength of over 300 individual licensed partners that give us access to 17,000+ athletes across 700+ teams, in 100 stadiums and over 30 leagues around the world.”
All about the money — It’s unclear why EA is considering rebranding the FIFA series, the best-selling sports franchise in the world. It may simply come down to economics — the company doesn’t report how much it spends licensing the FIFA brand, but if you consider the billions of dollars that TV broadcasters pay for the rights to air games from the National Football League, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that EA is spending an enormous sum to use the FIFA brand and benefit from its name recognition.
Thinking about business strategy, EA publicizing the possibility it might rebrand FIFA may be a way of pressuring the football association into giving it a better deal. This is something that happens often — YouTube and NBCUniversal recently aired their laundry when YouTube TV customers were informed they could lose NBC channels if the company didn’t give YouTube a better deal. NBC, for its part, launched a website effectively encouraging fans of its shows to contact YouTube customer support and tell the company to concede to NBC.
EA may have no real plans to drop the FIFA name. It is so iconic, after all. Perhaps it’s just trying to haggle. Given FIFA’s reputation for rampant corruption, accepting bribes for World Cup bids, and generally taking money from anyone willing to part with it, it’s hard to feel bad for it.