The world of video games is an ever-evolving landscape, as companies consistently release new products to stimulate the market and capture the attention of gamers – the sports gaming genre is no exception. In fact, it’s perhaps the most competitive gaming market in the industry today.
And with the announcement of EA Sports and FIFA, the world football’s governing body, will not be renewing their licensing agreement from the 2023/24 season onwards, it could be about to get even more competitive.
2K Sports are the front runners when it comes to securing the official rights package from next term onwards. The New York-based company already produces the official video games for the NBA and for WWE.
They are thought to be the only company other than EA Sports that may be able to cough up the $1bn that FIFA President Gianni Infantino is looking for in the new rights deal.
It seems that the Swiss businessman is playing a strategic game when it comes to the next season’s rights deal, similar to the strategy of this popular card game.
He has priced EA out of a deal, however, they have confirmed that they will continue their football simulation franchise under a new brand, EA Sports FC. And seeing 2K Sports enter their world won’t threaten them in the slightest.
EA Sports’ Civil War
The Canadian games development company is no stranger to competition and has in fact created somewhat of a civil war in recent years between two of their own franchises, namely FIFA and Madden, which is the official NFL game.
Sports fans on either side of the pond regularly argue which “football” is better, and we imagine the same debate takes place inside EA Sports’ California head office.
In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to determine which franchise of EA’s market-leading sports franchises has had the advantage in the long run, as the sales gap between the two games closes with each passing year.
To gain a better understanding of which game has the upper hand, let’s take a look at the sales of both franchises over the past decade.
The Early 2010s
In the early 2010s, Madden was the clear frontrunner in terms of sales. Although FIFA was only beginning to gain its foothold in the sports gaming market, Madden was established in the industry and had successfully tapped into a large fan base.
Between 2010 and 2012, FIFA was not able to reach the same heights as Madden, with the Madden series outselling FIFA by a margin of 4 million copies.
However, in the mid-2010s, FIFA started to gain momentum and began to catch up to the Madden franchise in terms of sales.
This can be attributed to EA’s clever business strategies, including the introduction of microtransactions, and the renewed emphasis on creating a fun, engaging, and rewarding gameplay experience.
With these strategies, FIFA was finally able to achieve parity with the Madden series, selling an average of 12 million copies per year, whereas Madden sold an average of 11 million copies per year.
The Latter Half of the 2010s
The past five years have seen a major shift in the sports gaming market, as FIFA has pulled ahead of Madden in terms of sales.
This can be attributed to FIFA’s continuous innovation, such as the introduction of the FIFA Ultimate Team mode, which allowed gamers to build and customize their teams, as well as the utilization of powerful licensing agreements with top soccer clubs, such as Manchester United and Real Madrid.
In 2020, FIFA sold over 15 million copies, whereas Madden sold around 10 million copies.
The most recent installment in the FIFA franchise was FIFA 23. The game was released late last year and is an extra special release, primarily to the game having the exclusive rights to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. And it put those rights to good use.
The official game mode of the Qatari footballing extravaganza was a huge hit with fans, as was the plethora of World Cup-related content available within Ultimate Team.
And if that wasn’t enough, EA Sports released a new soundtrack to the game, which paid homage to all of the incredible tracks that have accompanied the FIFA experience in recent years.
The soundtrack acts like a greatest hits album of FIFA tunes and features acclaimed artists such as Avicii, Billie Eilish, Imagine Dragons, and Muse. EA Sports made sure that their final release under the FIFA name felt special, and in all fairness, the franchise deserved it.
It’s clear that, over the last decade, the sales of both Madden and FIFA have steadily increased, but FIFA has taken the lead and established itself as the dominant force in the sports gaming industry, overtaking Madden in terms of sales and establishing a strong foothold in the market.