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The FIFA franchise: how to keep a yearly launch alive (and kicking)

This week I got myself discussing with friends how FIFA stays strong for such a long-time despite being launched every single year, with little time from one version to another, and still selling like, a LOT.

This week I got myself discussing with friends how FIFA stays strong for such a long-time despite being launched every single year, with little time from one version to another, and still selling like, a LOT.

I don’t know if you know this, but a significant amount of every football (or soccer, if in the US) club revenue comes from…shirts. Crazy, right? Clubs make literally hundreds of millions of dollars, and a great part of it comes from selling shirts. According to specialist site The Face (https://theface.com/style/vintage-football-shirts-big-business-drake-juventus-arsenal), only Manchester United makes 120 million Pounds off shirts per year.

How come? Well, if you are a fan, you need the most recent shirt, or you will should be ashamed to even leave your home for a match. That said, imagine how many new sponsors, small and big, and new players change every year. For every change, well, you need a new shirt, and they are not cheap. But hey, you are a fan. This reminds me of the “share of heart” post I did last week, you can check it out here: https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/AndreFaure/20200428/361944/Digital_Conferences_are_Not_the_Future_Heres_Why.php

Back to FIFA, the effect is somewhat the same, but with a very interesting nuance – EA’s treat every launch as a test for the next one. Meaning, with everything being online and the kind of business intelligence and metrics you can get from every player, you can set algorithms to tell you what to do in your next episodic launch. FIFA 20 VOLTA mode, per example, is nothing more that you wanted to see since FIFA Street. It is so obvious that I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole thing was developed by a bot. It is far from perfect, but you might say that the game has proper evolution (yes, Darwin!) when it comes to decide what to do next. If players like it, keep and refine. If they don’t, scrap it. It’s evolution, baby.

Amazing, right? So, the fans will want to get the next version, because it will have the improved version of “whatever” they found fantastic in the previous game. Brilliant business tactics, and a lot of resources invested to get to this point. So, will the game ever be perfect? Clear answer: no. Why? Simple: the football market, its brands and players. FIFA will almost always fail to get the latest teams, players and sponsorships. Updating it is somewhat “easy”, but negotiating all those rights is a nightmare, and the launch date won’t wait for this or that negotiation. So yeah, procedurally, the current strategy tends to a definitive FIFA, but it will never happen due to the fluidity of licensing rights.

Anyway, I’m very interested to see what will happen with FIFA 21, since the whole sport market has gone kaboom, and we will possibly won’t have any championships in 2020. Maybe this is an opportunity to improve campaigns, VOLTA and the women league.

What do you think?

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