Were EA Sports right to ditch FIFA?

EA have spent a long time listening and responding to the needs of their customers, and they’re not alone in prioritising the importance of personalisation in creating the perfect customer experience.

EA Sports in particular have always been 18 yards ahead of the competition when it comes to understanding the needs of its audience and developing its brand. It’s hard to think of another company that could get away with rereleasing the same product (with upgrades) every single year since 1993, for the same customers to buy over and over again.

But has EA finally scored an own goal?

Negotiations between EA Sports and FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, finally collapsed last week with the announcement that EA’s license agreement would not be renewed at the end of the year, and ‘FIFA 23’ will be the last FIFA-licensed game released by the software giant.

Reasons for the split included a disagreement over the fee, with FIFA reputedly asking for $1 billion for each four-year World Cup cycle.

But given that the FIFA games are worth around $150 million a year to EA (with in-game features such as ‘Ultimate Team’ worth an estimated $1.2 billion a year) was it a good idea to end such a profitable partnership?

Reasons why EA might be better off without FIFA

The change will provide an opportunity to create a new set of gaming experiences. To create an immersive total football experience like the modern EA FIFA games, you don’t just need a license deal with FIFA. You also have to negotiate licenses with the Premier League, the Bundesliga, the UEFA Champions League – with the result that EA holds more than 300 separate licensing agreements. 

It’s these agreements that may prove the key to EA’s continued success.

EA’s CEO, Andrew Wilson, recently commented,

“For a player in the UK, the most important thing to them is the Premier League. For a player in Germany the most important thing to them is the Bundesliga. In Spain it’s La Liga, and so on and so forth as you go around the world. What we’re focused on right now is building very unique experiences for each of those fans in each of those markets.”

 While for now the working title for the new game is ‘EA Sports FC’, it seems likely that players will be able to pick and choose from a whole variety of game experiences personalised to their preferences.

Access to additional license rights.

A major sticking point during the two-year negotiations was the use of the FIFA brand for other digital uses. EA was seeking to access and combine highlights of actual games into their gameplay, create NFTs, stage arena video game tournaments – all of which was prohibited by FIFA, who (it was rumoured) were seeking to auction off those rights separately.

A former high-level executive at EA summarised the argument like this;

“I’m going to say, ‘Wait a second: We have literally spent hundreds of millions of dollars building this and you’re telling me that Epic Games can come in and get a license to the name that we have built and that we have put front and centre and that has become synonymous with games? Then, yeah, I’m negotiating and I’m fighting that.”

In creating a series of more personalised games specific to each market, EA stands a better chance of obtaining the additional licensing rights and building the more immersive branded experiences that they’d hoped to create with FIFA.

Exciting stuff – there’s no doubt that EA faces a huge marketing challenge with this rebrand, but as the saying goes, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Social Media marketing will play a huge part in further developing the brand and the new game but EA seem up for the challenge if the hashtag #EASPORTSFC is anything to go by.

“This is much more than just a change of symbol – as EA Sports, we’re committed to ensuring EA Sports FC is a symbol of change. We’re dedicated to meaningfully reinvesting in the sport, and we’re excited to work with a large and increasing number of partners to expand to new authentic experiences that bring joy, inclusivity, and immersion to a global community of fans.”

We at Trio understand how difficult a rebrand can be, especially if you are concerned about losing your current audience. Making the necessary modifications to keep up with your industry might be intimidating.

You can keep the guesswork to a minimum with careful customer research, expert messaging, and conversion rate optimisation. Ultimately, our focus will always be on ensuring that our customers – and your customers – get the digital experiences they need.

Contact our team today to see what we can do for you!

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