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FIFA: It’s in The Name

EA are dropping the FIFA name after decades of what sounds like a difficult partnership. It’s a chance to show that gameplay and good brand managem… who am I kidding? It’s in The Name.

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Genuinely. You know what happens in 2023, when EA Sports FC becomes the new name of this year’s biggest football game? The new officially sanctioned game, thrown roughly together by two coders in six weeks, still outsells it.

And EA really only have themselves to blame.

EA Sports – It’s In The Name

FIFA, along with other years franchises, started to get a bad reputation at the tail end of the PS3 era. But unlike, say, Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty, FIFA started to lean into it.

Assassin’s Creed ditched the yearly release, instead focussing on giant RPGs. Call of Duty added a development studio and a handful of support studios in the hopes that they could still release every year, but with new franchise within the franchise. It didn’t really work, which is why Microsoft is buying them. But at least they tried.

Meanwhile, EA started putting warnings on the Switch version of FIFA saying it was merely a roster update and no new modes or features had been added. And it’s not even the first time.

And I don’t know that this is EA’s fault, necessarily. It might be anxiety on the part of the governing body themselves- terrified that anything too wild (like a new game mode) might rock the boat. That benefit of the doubt is probably deserved.

But the end result is the same: people buy FIFA because it’s FIFA. They buy it every single year, and they might spend a bunch of money on cards, but ultimately they buy it because they always buy it. They have been trained overĀ decades to see this game as the game. Rivals have been pushed to the wayside. Billions of pounds have been spent.

And now EA are going to try and break that cycle. They’re going to try and say “look, I know it’s not the same name, but it’s still a football game from the people who bought you FIFA”. And I’m not sure it’s going to work.

FIFA – The Beautiful Game

Part of the issue is the new name. EA Sports FC has the ring of someone saying “FC has two syllables, just like FIFA”. And when people start saying they want to play a game of latest FC, maybe that’ll start ringing true. But it doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue in the same way a massively established brand like FIFA does.

And this presumes that FIFA just disappears. It presumes that those rights aren’t being shipped to one of the console manufacturers at massive rates. It presumes FIFA aren’t just going to pull in Konami to update PES with the official name. And that’s if FIFA don’t just pull together a tiny team of their own. The quality of the game doesn’t really matter so long as it keeps saying FIFA on it.

Sure, that’s a short-term plan. But will it matter if there’s a giant FIFA comeback in 2024?

I understand that EA have had some major problems with FIFA over the years. From leaks it appears like they’ve been very stifling. Maybe the name isn’t worth it.

But there’s a lot in a name. And there’s no doubt in my mind that FC is going to be an uphill struggle if it’s not handled correctly. Your move, EA.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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