It looks like the decades-long relationship between EA Sports and football's governing body could be coming to an end, with FIFA seeming keen to explore its options rather than carrying on its collaboration with Electronic Arts.
But what does this potential breakup mean for FIFA 23, and what impact could it have on football games in general? Will we really end up playing a game called EA Sports FC instead of FIFA 23? And if so, when will it release?
This debate comes at a time when there is already disruption in the football simulation market: Konami recently released eFootball, a free-to-play everlasting game that replaces its annual Pro Evolution Soccer franchise; and there's also UFL, an all-new footy gaming franchise from Strikerz Inc, for players to keep an eye on.
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So what exactly is going on between FIFA and EA Sports, and what could it mean for FIFA 23 and the future of football games? Keep on reading for all the latest news, and our best attempt to explain what it all means.
What have FIFA and EA Sports said about each other?
In a statement posted on the EA website on that same day, EA explained it is "exploring the idea of renaming our global EA SPORTS football games. This means we’re reviewing our naming rights agreement with FIFA, which is separate from all our other official partnerships and licenses across the football world."
Following that, on 12th October, EA announced that it has renewed its partnership with FIFPro, the organisation (separate from FIFA itself) that represents thousands of professional footballers and holds the rights to their names and likenesses. As we understand it, it is the relationship between EA and FIFPro that allows real player faces and names to appear in EA's games.
"FIFPRO will continue to be an important partner as we build the next generation of EA SPORTS football experiences for players around the world," said EA Sports vice president David Jackson in the announcement.
One thing that didn't get mentioned in the post on the 12th was EA's current relationship with FIFA, a different entity from FIFPro, a turn of events which made it seem even more likely that the next EA football game could be called EA Sports FC rather than FIFA 23.
FIFA itself, the governing body of football in real life, posted its own statement on 15th October. One bit that stood out was this sentence: "FIFA is bullish and excited about the future in gaming and eSports for football, and it is clear that this needs to be a space that is occupied by more than one party controlling all rights."
Another interesting nugget was this claim: "FIFA is 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." So it sounds like FIFA is looking to find new partners to collaborate with beyond EA.
Will there be a FIFA 23 from EA Sports?
The big question, then, regards whether or not FIFA 22 is the last FIFA game that will come to us from EA Sports. Will there be a FIFA 23 game developed and released by EA, keeping in step with the annual tradition that we can usually predict like clockwork?
Based on the aforementioned statements from EA and FIFA, it seems more likely that the two companies are going their separate ways, which would mean that EA's FIFA franchise as we know it is ending.
Instead, it seems plausible that the next football game to come from EA Sports will be called EA Sports FC, rather than being titled FIFA 23. Beyond lacking the FIFA name, it would be interesting to see what else would be different about EA's next football sim.
Meanwhile, the real-life FIFA organisation could partner with a different developer to release games that boast the FIFA branding. FIFA could, in theory, lend its name to a new game that will enter the market as a rival to EA's football games.
When will the FIFA 23 release date be?
EA Sports normally releases its football games in the autumn, so if it was happening, we would expect the FIFA 23 release date to fall in September or October 2022.
However, with such big changes afoot, it'll be interesting to see if EA breaks from that traditional yearly release cycle and does something different instead. EA Sports FC, or whatever the next football game from EA ends up being called, could feasibly move to a different point in the calendar.
Likewise, if FIFA partners with a different game developer to make a brand-new football game with FIFA in the name, all bets are off regarding when that game would come out. We'll be sure to let you know, by updating this page, if and when we hear anything.
Will FIFA 23 be free to play?
One of the biggest rumours circling EA Sports' football game franchise at the moment is the suggestion that FIFA 23 will be free to play, whether or not that game retains the FIFA name or rebrands itself into EA Sports FC.
Much like Konami's recent eFootball project (which dropped the PES branding and totally rewrote its own rulebook), the rumour suggests that EA could be cooking up a football game that will have no upfront cost. Instead, the microtransactions in its Ultimate Team mode would be its main source of income.
However, these rumours are just that. Rumours. EA has not stated an intent to make its next football game free to play, but we'll be sure to update this article if that changes at a later date. Watch this space, folks – the world of football games could be about to change.
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