EA CEO Andrew Wilson has suggested the FIFA license may have actually impeded the development of its popular soccer series.
In October last year, the publisher said it was "exploring" the idea of renaming the FIFA franchise after almost three decades, and would be reviewing its naming rights agreement with FIFA.
According to a report from VGC, Wilson further outlined the company's position during an internal meeting and indicated the only value the licensing deal brings to the FIFA series during a non-World Cup year is "four letters on the front of the box."
Wilson also claimed the FIFA deal has prevented EA from expanding beyond more traditional modes or into "broader digital ecosystems," and described it as an "an impediment."
Anonymous sources who attended the meeting said Wilson feels the FIFA franchise may now hold more weight as a brand than FIFA itself, and suggested EA is seeking more freedoms from the world soccer governing body.
"We’ve had a great relationship with FIFA over the past 30-odd years. We've created billions in value [...] it's just huge. We've created one of the biggest entertainment properties on the planet," said Wilson, describing the long-term partnership.
"I would argue -- and this may be a little biased -- that the FIFA brand has more meaning as a video game than it does a governing body of soccer. We don’t take that for granted and we try not to be arrogant. We've worked really hard to try and make FIFA understand what we need for the future."
Wilson proceeded to explain how EA might benefit from a potential split with FIFA, noting such a move would allow the publisher to better leverage "more cultural and commercial" brands such as Nike and Adidas.
The EA boss also expressed a desire to iterate on the tried-and-tested FIFA formula, but suggested there has been pushback from FIFA whenever those ideas have been raised.
"Our players tell us they want more modes of play, different things beyond 11v11 and different types of gameplay. I would tell you, it’s been a fight to get FIFA to acknowledge the types of things that we want to create, because they say our licence only covers certain categories," said Wilson
“Our players want us to expand into the digital ecosystem more broadly [...] our fans are telling us they want us to go and participate in that space. Our FIFA licence has actually precluded us from doing a lot of this stuff. Again, FIFA is just the name on the box, but they’ve precluded our ability to be able to branch into the areas that players want."
Wilson added that he has communicated EA's concerns to FIFA leaders, including president Gianni Infantino, but said he's unsure if the two companies will be able to resolve their differences.
You can hear more from Wilson by checking out the full report on VGC.