It had become a byword for soccer video games. In fact, there may have been some playing the FIFA game that didn’t actually realize that the name was taken from the governing body of “the beautiful game” itself. For almost 30 years, the annual release of the FIFA game was the biggest news in the sports gaming world. But that all came to an end in 2023.
EA Sports decided not to pay the licensing fee to FIFA at the end of 2022 and the governing body decided that it could produce its own games instead, making more money in the long run. With sports being enjoyed online more and more and adjacent industries growing all the time, fans not only want the best app for sports betting, but they want official games as well.
But the relationship between EA Sports and FIFA ended rather acrimoniously and they have now parted ways. EA has brought out its own new game, to somewhat mixed reviews, while it has all gone very quiet on FIFA’s side. What is happening about the promised new FIFA title? And will we now be able to expect a new game in 2024? Here’s what we know at the present time – and news of other developers trying to get in on the act in FIFA’s absence.
The History of the FIFA Series
The first ever FIFA game was released in 1993. Unlike the later incarnations, FIFA International Soccer, as the name suggests, allowed players to choose national teams and the title was favorably received by gamers and soccer fans alike. But that relative success didn’t foresee just how huge the franchise would become.
A year later, FIFA 95 enabled gamers to choose club teams but it was the next edition that really had people excited, with all the extra functions and the authenticity, thanks to licenses from FIFPro. That allowed real names and players to be used. More improvements were made over the years until FIFA was the number one soccer game available. But it wasn’t always that way.
There had been a number of other soccer titles in the 1990s, but it was Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) that was the main competition. In fact, it has been said that FIFA and PES enjoyed the greatest rivalry in the history of sports video games. PES was initially the more realistic version, with FIFA more arcade-style. But both ended up as simulation-style games, with PES considered by many to be the superior product.
But FIFA pulled away in terms of popularity and gameplay in the mid-2010s and PES fell away, eventually rebranding as eFootball and becoming a free-to-play title. FIFA had become the only real game in town and millions around the world eagerly anticipated the new release every year.
As with any doomed successful partnership, the split between FIFA and EA Sports came down to money. It had been an incredibly profitable partnership for decades but FIFA decided that it could ask for more money for its official licenses for the game. The details of the demand are not exact but it has been reported that FIFA asked for significantly more money – and EA Sports refused.
Although the deal had been good for both parties, EA Sports decided that it was more than capable of working with its existing licenses for various leagues, players, and events, leaving FIFA out in the cold. For its part, FIFA promised to release its own title but nothing has happened as yet.
The new FIFA game was always released around the end of September each year and EA Sports kept to that schedule, launching EA Sports FC 24 to an excited public last year. The initial reviews were broadly positive. With over 19,000 players, 700 teams, 100 stadiums, and 30 leagues following on from FIFA 23, gamers would not have known that FIFA was no longer part of the equation.
There were some minor tweaks and additions to the gameplay modes as well, but EA was clever enough to realize that its customers would want more of the same – not a complete break from the past. There were some bugs and some criticism of the lack of change, but EA Sports seems to have been rewarded with standing its ground.
With FIFA now out of the way, for the time being at least, it was expected that EA Sports would have the soccer game market all to itself. But there have been some interesting developments elsewhere. Developments that come with some very big names in the sport.
After long being the face of Konami games and promoting PES, Lionel Messi has been urging his social media followers to play its successor, eFootball 24. But, more interestingly, Cristiano Ronaldo has apparently put his money behind an entirely new venture from UFL that is developing its own free-to-play game. But the feeling is that even it manages to raise enough money and interest, it will do well to compete with any title from EA Sports.
The Future of FIFA
So, what happens with FIFA games now? FIFA president Gianni Infantino promised that the name would live on and that FIFA would still be the main game on the market. But he is not in charge of the video gaming sector of the organization and nothing has appeared as yet.
The only FIFA-related products have been some badly thought-out blockchain-based games and a promise that FIFA would continue. There is every possibility that one of the other main developers is working with FIFA at this very moment to create the next market leader. But, for now, it feels as though FIFA believed that it held the upper hand in the soccer game world – and found out, rather embarrassingly, that wasn’t the case.