EA Sports had previously announced that in the Summer of 2023, they will release a brand new franchise titled EA Sports FC. This is because EA Sports have confirmed they are parting ways in their partnership with FIFA. This means FIFA 23 and the current 2023 season of FIFA Mobile are the last editions in their subsequent franchises, as EA will no longer have the right to use the FIFA name in their game titles. While this cannot be changed, few companies have a great opportunity to grab this chance of getting the FIFA license.
EA losing the license might be somebody else’s gain
For EA, this marks the start of a new era – the EA Sports FC era. For FIFA themselves though, there is something else coming together under the radar. In an official statement, FIFA president, Gianni Infantino said: “I can assure you that the only authentic, real game that has the FIFA name will be the best one available for gamers and football fans. 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 FIFA videogame brand will continue as it has been, just not under EA Sports as publisher. But if EA is not the one working on FIFA anymore, then who is? FIFA is reportedly engaging with publishers, studios, and investors on the development of a new simulation football title for 2024. There are a few different candidates who could step up to take the FIFA license, and each could take their spin on the game, as we’ll be discussing in this article.
10 Companies that can get the FIFA License
We’ll discuss the ten companies that have a great opportunity to grab the FIFA License.
KONAMI in the year 2022 rebranded their football series from Pro Evolution Soccer to eFootball. Now free-to-play on all platforms, the game focuses on immersive and competitive gameplay and is currently focused on its Dream Team mode, which is sort of like FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode. Konami also has Master League in their roadmap, which shares a resemblance with FIFA’s Career Mode.
For years, Konami has always been the only real competitor to EA Sports. Ever since Konami switched to eFootball and had that dumpster fire of a first release, EA appeared to have a significant advantage. Konami could step up now that FIFA is looking for someone else to take over their license.
They have enough resources at their disposal and their games already share a resemblance with EA’s series as well. With official FIFA licensing, we could potentially see a surge in popularity for eFootball. One thing Konami has always lacked is real names and licenses to clubs and competitions. Although patches have made it possible, eFootball still lacks that overall punch.
Aside from that, Konami has most of the foundations all ready to take the FIFA name themselves. Out of all the potential candidates, Konami is arguably best suited but if they would be interested is another question, considering they have just rebranded their franchise recently.
2. Take-Two Interactive/2K Sports
2K are the ones behind popular franchises such as NBA 2K, WWE 2K, and PGA 2K. In the past, they have also worked on NHL 2K and MLB 2K. It is evident from the range of different sports covered that 2K is always looking to widen its horizons and tap into different markets. With that said, what market is bigger than that of football?
Perhaps a link-up between 2K and FIFA is a bit of a reach. Speaking to IGN before Take-Two’s quarterly earnings call, Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of 2K’s Parent company, Take Two, said “We’re definitely interested in expanding our opportunities in sports and FIFA has a great brand and incredible clout but we have no current plans to discuss”.
Perhaps there is no movement at the moment, but it’s worth noting that FIFA plan to release their new game in 2024, so we can’t write 2K off completely. Currently, EA Sports FIFA is leaning a lot more towards the Ultimate Team aspect, and there is only so much more to do with this mode before it starts to get stale.
Since Gianni Infantino mentioned the words “real” and “authentic“, we could see the new FIFA starting from scratch and going for realism instead, which could be in the form of immersive player/manager career modes, or something similar to The Journey a few years ago. If there is one developer group that is best known for its immersive single-player sports simulation, it would be 2K, as we have seen with the MyPlayer career in NBA 2K or the showcase modes in WWE 2K.
3. Activision Blizzard
With such little information surrounding the future of the FIFA license, it’s difficult to write anyone off. Activision merged with Blizzard in 2008 and has since become one of the largest video game companies in the world. They specialize in the eSports sector, having produced competitive titles like Call of Duty and Overwatch.
A football series is a stretch for a company that has had little relation to sports. However, if FIFA is looking to go down the competitive path, then a partnership with Activision would be a good way to do that. A FIFA World Cup in eSports could be very interesting, and Activision Blizzard’s experience with eSports means they could be one of the best candidates to set something up.
A FIFA license would look great on Activision Blizzard’s portfolio too, but the question is, would the company be willing to invest in another big project like this?
4. Tencent Games
The split between EA Sports and FIFA would surely have got Tencent thinking of potential ideas. Tencent is one of the biggest companies in China, and they are known to have a stake in big companies, such as ownership of Riot Games (developers of League of Legends and Valorant) and a minority stake in Epic Games (developers of Fortnite). Tencent has been active in the mobile industry as well and has contributed to games like PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty Mobile.
Perhaps Tencent could do something similar to Call of Duty Mobile, and develop a mobile port of FIFA. The mobile games industry is rapidly growing, as is the number of football games on mobile as well. Konami’s eFootball and EA’s FIFA Mobile (which will likely get a name change) are joined with others like First Touch Games’ Dream League Soccer and NetEase’s upcoming title, Vive le Football. If FIFA wants to bring something to mobile, a partnership with Tencent would be a good opportunity to do so.
5. NetEase Games
NetEase is a big presence in the mobile games industry, and is the one behind games like Dead by Daylight Mobile, Marvel Super War, and Lord of the Rings: Rise to War. They also have a football title in the works too, named Vive le Football. First announced two years ago on January 2021, the progress is slow, and this appears to be continuing for another year.
This will be Netease’s attempt at challenging eFootball Mobile and FIFA Mobile. If Netease were to strike a deal for the FIFA license though, that would reinforce their chances of tackling this market. They already have a game modeled and are ready to do that too.
Similar to Tencent Games, a partnership with Netease would likely be a more mobile-focused one. Of course, this deal would lie on Netease’s decision on rebranding Vive le Football which is due to release soon. Perhaps they could develop a separate game, though that may become a conflict of interest.
SEGA has already established itself in the football video games market but in a different way than what others like EA and Konami have done. Their long-running Football Manager series runs on a yearly release schedule and has also found its way to other platforms like mobile and console.
Football Manager is very much focused on the technical side of football, which is a menu-based game where plays assume the role of managers, making decisions on transfers, tactics, etc.
Gianni Infantino did mention the words “Authentic” and “Real“. Could this hint literally at an authentic simulation experience like Football Manager? However, if FIFA wants to seriously come back to the market with a new game to challenge what will be EA Sports FC next year, a niche title like Football Manager is probably not the way to do that.
This often goes unnoticed, but Ubisoft had made a football game before, titled Pure Football which was released back in 2010. Pure Football was an arcade-like game focusing more on fast-paced and end-to-end football.
At that time, Ubisoft was facing off against the monopoly set out by EA’s FIFA, and Konami was already busy chasing that. It would have been very difficult for Ubisoft to get an audience and ultimately, they failed on this part after receiving negative views from critics.
With an official partnership with FIFA, Ubisoft could venture back into this genre. They are one of the most well-known names in the video games industry on multiple platforms, with big series like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry. A football series would stray away from Ubisoft’s usual theme but it would certainly help their position in the industry if they pull it off well.
Com2uS is a Korean-based company predominantly working with mobile games. They are the ones behind titles like MLB 9 Innings and NBA Now, with both being officially licensed as well. It would not be too surprising if Com2uS managed to secure official licensing from FIFA as well, considering they have worked with similar projects already.
As this would be a mobile-specific deal, FIFA would be able to switch things up and take a different approach in a different market. NBA Now is a casual arcade-like experience featuring one-handed gameplay, whilst MLB 9 Innings follows more of a competitive theme.
A collaboration between Com2uS and FIFA would provide an opportunity to introduce something new to the mobile platform. In FIFA’s goal of creating an “authentic” and “real experience,” a standalone mobile title would make little sense. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to dismiss anything at this point.
9. Strikerz Inc.
Strikerz Inc. is a newcomer to the football simulation space and is set to release UFL this year, a brand new free-to-play football game for PC and console. The game promises a “fair-to-play” model where the focus is all on competitive skill, rather than squad-building with pay-to-play features.
They have already established partnerships with clubs like West Ham and Bayer Leverkusen, as well as player ambassadors like Kevin De Bruyne and Roberto Firmino. The point is, these guys look serious, and this competitive game could get a good audience.
Since they are new to the scene, it’s unlikely that an official partnership with FIFA is finalized so soon. However, depending on how UFL is received by the public, Strikerz Inc could well be in the discussion.
10. Xbox Games Studio
The Xbox Game Pass subscription is becoming increasingly popular due to its ever-increasing roster of games. They’ve also got quite a few sports games as well, such as UFC, F1, and even Football Manager: Xbox Edition. An officially licensed FIFA title would be a fantastic addition to Xbox, without a doubt.
The only issue is, Microsoft would almost certainly try to push for exclusivity for Xbox which would turn out great on their part. It would limit the audience for FIFA massively though, and that is something FIFA would try to avoid.
If the FIFA license is obtained, all of the companies listed will benefit greatly. This is a fantastic opportunity for the big names to become even more well-known and to join the football governing body. However, the question remains whether they will be able to capitalize on this opportunity. Without a doubt, FIFA is looking for suitors for their brand in games, and the best offer may seal the license deal.
In terms of reach and demand, KONAMI appears to be the most in need of this, as most parts of the game remain unlicensed, making players hesitant because they won’t be getting the full real-life football experience. In terms of publicity, the others mentioned may have a good chance to improve their market standing.
While a few of them do not currently have a football title in development, the possibility of having this deal may give birth to new football game projects. Of course, the most popular sport in the world requires more and better titles, and what we really want is to get more football games and play them on our devices.
What are your thoughts on EA losing the FIFA license? Who might be the next to claim it? Do let us know in the comment section below!
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