The world footballing governing body FIFA has issued a statement titled 'FIFA set to widen gaming and esports portfolio' which I'm sure has absolutely nothing to do with EA's recent announcement it would look to re-brand the long-running FIFA series. FIFA wanted too much money and it looks like the latest entry FIFA 22 will be the last under that name, with EA having trademarked 'EA Sports FC'.
“FIFA is bullish and optimistic about its long-term future in gaming and esports following a comprehensive and strategic assessment of the gaming and interactive entertainment market,” reads FIFA's statement, before getting in a quick dig at former partner EA: “it is clear that this needs to be a space that is occupied by more than one party controlling all rights.”
Yeah! Hey wait isn't that FIFA's whole deal?
FIFA is now apparently “engaging with various industry players, including developers, investors and analysts, to build out a long-term view of the gaming, esports and interactive entertainment sector.”
Reading between the lines here, it's pretty obvious that FIFA is scrambling to decide what its future in gaming is. This is a company that worships the dollar (as the collapse of its licensing deal with EA shows) and it now faces going from being the most popular videogame sports brand on the planet to, next year, having to start from scratch with a new partner and compete against the juggernaut EA has built. Not before time, some EA execs might say: there's a perception within the publisher that EA has done more to build FIFA's brand over recent decades than FIFA has.
That doesn't mean FIFA should be underestimated, however. It may be slightly laughable when it claims that “football-based gaming and the FIFA name are intrinsically intertwined” but being the organisation in charge of the World Cup does offer rather a large platform to reach football fans with any future offering.
“FIFA has also determined that the overlaps between virtual sport and FIFA's football competitions must be more closely aligned. In this respect, FIFA is excited about using the FIFA World Cup (with four billion viewers) and FIFA Women’s World Cup (with an audience of 1.2 billion) as platforms to launch and integrate exciting new games and esports offerings.”
Next year will be the most interesting for football games in some time. We'll almost certainly see EA's FIFA engaged in a massive re-branding exercise, while Konami tries desperately to get eFootball into a fit state for competition. There's also a third game and new entrant, UFL, which has been announced as a free-to-play competitor to both, but not really detailed.