EA said last year that the game had sold more than 325 million copies over its three decades – Copyright AFP/File YANN COATSALIOU
Joseph Boyle and Yassine Khiri
One of the biggest franchises in video game history comes to an end on Friday with the release of FIFA 23, the latest installment in a soccer game that has captivated millions of fans for the past three decades.
US game maker Electronic Arts (EA) and world soccer body FIFA spent months negotiating the licensing deal that has underpinned the game since its first release in 1993.
But they confirmed the split in May when FIFA said it would look for other partners and EA said it would rename its game “EA Sports FC” from next year.
For the final version, EA included women’s club teams for the first time, though only from England and France, several years after it introduced female players.
Australian superstar Sam Kerr, who plays in the English league, is on the cover of the game alongside France’s World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe.
“It is, and remains, one of the most popular franchises in all of gaming,” said Tom Wijman of Newzoo, a firm that analyzes data on the industry.
Disassociation is risky for both EA and FIFA, and neither guarantees the success of their new ventures.
But analysts say EA is in a stronger position after spending 30 years developing and marketing the game.
The firm said last year that FIFA had sold more than 325 million copies over its three decades, reportedly generating more than $20 billion in sales.
– ‘Out on high’ –
Players were less concerned about corporate fallout and just wanted to play the latest version of the game.
Professional eSports players, some of whom earn hundreds of thousands of dollars playing games, queued up to live stream their first attempts.
“One of my favorite videos,” tweeted Donovan Hunt, one of the most successful eSports players, with a link to a YouTube video of his first attempt.
Swedish player Olle Arbin broadcast his first attempt live for 12 hours on Wednesday.
Reviewers were impressed by the improvements to the game’s graphics since the last edition, and praised the additional features such as a “power shot” for adding another dimension to the game.
“FIFA 23 sees the series finish on a high and offers encouraging signs for EA Sports FC’s debut around this time next year,” Ben Wilson wrote on GamesRadar.
– ‘Risky effort’ –
The video game industry, estimated to be worth some $300 billion a year, has become increasingly cutthroat in recent years with the biggest companies buying out many of their competitors.
EA had a turnover of $5.6 billion last year, making it one of the biggest game makers that remains out of reach of the four giants: Tencent, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.
The end of the deal with FIFA came after the soccer body reportedly raised its demand for license fees from $150 million a year to $250 million, bringing the four-year contract total discussed. to $1 billion.
EA will lose the right to use the FIFA name and competitions like the World Cup, but can still use player names and non-FIFA competitions like the English Premier League, a key advantage over rivals .
However, the firm was already turning more and more towards club competitions, both on and off screen.
He is taking on a five-year sponsorship deal from Spain’s top-tier La Liga next year, worth between €30m and €40m a year.
Newzoo’s Wijman said that “EA Sports FC” has a good chance of success.
“Losing the FIFA brand may hurt EA’s chances a little bit, but they have the game engine, the development teams, the marketing expertise and the brand expertise,” he said.
FIFA could find it difficult to attract potential partners after its reported $1 billion demand, Wijman said.
It would be a “risky endeavor,” he said, “under any circumstances, but especially if you then have to compete with EA to build the most popular soccer game.”