Renewed FIFA Contract Gives EA No Incentive to Innovate for Next Decade

EA Sports renewed its contract with FIFA for another 10 years, which means a decade more of no competition.

You may or may not have heard, (because, frankly, this moment passes and goes every decade or so, without so much as a whisper) because developer Electronic Arts has been developing FIFA games since 1993 without interruption.

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So in case you didn’t hear, EA Sports extended its contract with FIFA on March 8. The new deal will expire on Dec. 31, 2022, meaning another 10 years of dominance as the only FIFA-licensed soccer game and another decade of not feeling any pressure to improve.

How exclusive agreements can make good franchises fat, content and uninspiring

The video game industry is littered with heartless reboots that go through the motions, time and time again. But at least mainstays like Call of Duty and Halo have to compete with other first-person shooters. Sports games, however, have a very limited number of competitors within each sport, because game developers can purchase rights from the sports leagues to become the sole developers of that brand.

That’s why Madden phased out its competition over the years and became the sole NFL-sim game available. Not only do its resources surpass those of any potential competitor, but it also signed an exclusivity agreement with the NFL in 2004, which has carried through to 2013 and made it so that no other game could use the teams, players and other trademarks of the league. Basically, it established itself as the only viable pro football game on the market.

Fans have also noted that while Madden has faced no competition, it has continued to release annual games with disappointing additions and little ingenuity.

The FIFA series isn’t as bad as Madden…yet. 

EA Sports has guaranteed the same situation for itself over the next 10 years. Through its many contracts with FIFA and other European football leagues across the world, EA Sports has garnered multiple exclusivity rights. Other soccer games have contended, but the brand name and resources, coupled with its contracts, make it virtually unassailable.

Luckily, the FIFA games haven’t sat on their haunches, even though they could probably get away with it. FIFA 12 experienced a complete engine overhaul that made the gameplay more realistic than ever, and that system was only enhanced with the most recent addition, FIFA 13. GamesRadar gave it four stars out of five. GameSpot gave it an 8.0, but gave FIFA 12 a 9.0. The drop was probably more of a statement of FIFA 12’s excellence, rather than an indictment of this year’s title.

The FIFA franchise remains one of the most popular franchises on the market for the most popular sport in the world.

For that, I respect the work EA Sports has done and admit that they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

However, I also have a natural distrust of large companies with a love for the bottom line.

If presented with an opportunity to produce a higher quality product at a higher cost, or a lower quality product with a lower cost, I expect the company to choose the latter. What usually keeps companies in check is a clear competitor that is ready to pounce on profits, if a single weakness is shown. 

EA Sports has guaranteed that it won’t have such a competitor for the next decade. As consumers, our only option is to trust that they will choose quality over profit margins. 

And trust is often a frightening thing.


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Author
Nick Fouriezos
I'm a freelance journalist who loves sports, gaming and creative writing. I'm also a GameSkinny intern and right now I'm playing unhealthy amounts of NBA2k12, Halo 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. Check out more of my work at nick4iezos.com.