Popular eSports videogame to lose licence?
By George Ferreira
FIFA 22 is the latest in the ever-popular football sim franchise which is played by causal fans who play it every now and then to professional players who represent teams at eSports events such as the FIFA eWorld Cup, FIFA 22 Global series and the FIFA 22 ePremier League. These events generate large viewing numbers online and all have cash prizes up for grabs, cash prizes which are made possible by the ever-increasing amount of income FIFA makes from the Ultimate Team mode. However, it could all be about to change with EA Sports refusing to pay FIFA their asking price of one billion dollars to extend their licencing agreement for another four years and subsequently it seems other developers have their eyes on the licence.
For the last 3 console generations the EA sports football title never had any real competition with the last good Pro Evolution Soccer being 2006 which featured the famous 99 shot power Adriano, football fans have no choice but to play FIFA which set about hoovering up the licences of leagues, competitions and certain clubs like Benfica in FIFA 22 meaning EA sports held the monopoly over football games. In turn they focused their resources more and more into online modes such as the aforementioned Ultimate Team and made eSports tournaments where pro players would have to spend money to build a competitive team to participate in eSports events. The problem with this was that unlike other popular eSports video games like Call of Duty and CSGO you couldn’t compete with the best without spending meaning FIFA eSports was more to do with the quality of the team built by the pro players rather than the skill each pro player has. The eWorld Cup and ePremier League on the other hand are team-based tournaments where rather than your own team your representing a nation or club meaning pro players who participate have to use the squad of whom they are representing meaning these tournaments are more to do with skill meaning more people have a chance at winning the cash prize.
With EA not extending the licencing agreement with FIFA, FIFA 23 could end being called EA Football 2023 and FIFA could become FIFA2k23 with TakeTwo the parent company of 2K sports and Rockstar games supposedly interested in purchasing the FIFA licencing. This would be good because it could mean EA Sports would have some competition and with competition fans would get better games from both companies and pro players would have more tournaments to enter in turn creating income into eSports which as of 2021 is valued at $1.1 billion. There are also other football videogames on the horizon with a new game called UFL which has already signed the licencing rights to West Ham is being developed by Strikerz Inc and aims to be a free to play offering where players are able to build their own team by using some of the over 5000 fully licenced FIFPro players. No gameplay has been shown but a small teaser was showcased at Gamescom 2021 showing West Ham’s London stadium fully rendered in Unreal Engine.
Overall, I believe that competition in football games would lead to consumers winning and football eSports to grow. 2K Sports have done an amazing job with their player career mode and current FIFA career mode players look to be excited if 2K did something similar should they buy the FIFA licence, this would also force EA sports to improve on their offering to keep players playing their game. Furthermore, with release of UFL being focussed on competitive online play we could see UFL becoming the go to game for pro players which could see it become an eSports powerhouse in football. I truly believe this is exciting times for football videogames.