If nothing else, FIFA was quite an annoying name anyway. That's because most of the things you want to say about one FIFA can be said about the other. "FIFA is regularly associated with greed," for instance. "FIFA is run by very unpopular people," or, "FIFA is deeply flawed, but we're stuck with it because there's no alternative." Or maybe: "FIFA is what happens when financial gain comes before the sanctity of the game itself."
EA deciding to bin its partnership with FIFA - the organisation regularly associated with greed, run by very unpopular people, etc. etc. - is a big deal. It is, however, probably a much bigger deal for the organisation than it is the video game. Some reckon EA was paying something in the order of $150m per year for the FIFA brand, with the New York Times claiming FIFA the organisation was asking for up to double that to renew the partnership after it expires with this year's FIFA 23, and for EA to still lose its exclusivity in the new deal anyway.
That is silly money - football money! - but for FIFA the organisation that is also money for nothing. It's landlord stuff, a gigantic income earned from nothing more than EA's monolithic development, publishing, and marketing efforts and a reputation as the best play-as-the-players football simulation available, gained rightly or wrongly from decades of expertise.
For EA, which will crucially retain the all-important rights to the names and images of players, clubs and leagues, those billions merely represent the cost of a name, and not much more. In a time where fans are increasingly siloed, contained within the walls of official Discords, YouTube channels, social media accounts, and the ever-updating home screens of their favourite games themselves, it's little surprise EA's concluded that, actually, the name doesn't really matter. They've created an entire world here, and in it FIFA's developers can simply say, directly to their audience, that the next game will be called something else. The marketing team could probably do with a challenge, but even this'll be a breeze.
Nevertheless, beyond the very small number of people materially impacted by EA or FIFA's financials, none of this matters at all. What will matter is what FIFA the game, now dubbed EA Sports FC (or, I strongly suspect, a game we'll simply call either FC or just… FIFA) does next. This is what many millions of people will be spending money on from next September, what they'll be spending hundreds of hours on each year after that, what keeps a sizable chunk of Vancouver employed and what several governments, including that of the UK, have one eye on regulating.
This is also the thing, whatever we call it, that's been such relentless conundrum. Playing FIFA is fun; it is also a nightmare, and each year we retread the same ground. The time-old Career Mode, although now far from the most popular part of the game, is criminally underserved. New story modes strike the same, oddly hagiographical tone as that FIFA-made biopic of its multi-disgraced former leader, Sepp Blatter, and his World Cup-saving heroics. Gameplay often starts okay, but deteriorates patch-on-patch into a murky sludge by the end of a year's cycle. Improvements from one year to the next are mainly limited to system gimmicks with names followed by registered trademarks.
Above all, its Ultimate Team mode is little more than an addiction-generating casino, ostensibly an 18+ establishment, but with a sleeping security guard and free sweets given away just inside the entrance. EA's argument, when the inevitable "my child spent £700 on FUT packs" articles hit BBC News each autumn, is that preventing children from spending money on randomised microtransactions is as much the job of the platform holder (don't think too hard about the fact that on PC, where FIFA is played via Origin, EA is actually the platform holder as well.) The platform holders, if you were to ask them, would surely say it's the job of the parents to make sure their kids don't set up or play on the wrong console accounts. And for as long as you follow the circle of finger-pointing, FIFA continues to be a PEGI 3-rated game wherein children continue to spend large amounts of cash.
These are the things that matter about FIFA the game, and as slimy a partner as FIFA the organisation has been, ditching that partnership is unlikely to change it. But it does mean now is as good an opportunity as EA will get to do something. EA, in fairness, has made some promises. "We are taking action," EA's chief experience officer Chris Bruzzo told Eurogamer last year. "We're not just talking. We're taking action. We're putting more information in front of players. We're driving awareness around parental controls. And we put in preview packs as you know. We are ready to continue to engage in solutions. We really are."
Binning annualisation might be a better option - with a clean break in the branding cycle and a good 18 months to prepare, EA could quite easily shift to a subscription model, say, or go free-to-play. That would remove the months of distribution and cert that come with annual physical releases, affording EA Sports' developers the time and space to patch more successfully and comprehensively on the fly, tie things more closely to real-life football seasons and, above all, provide the chance to ditch the random, paid-for packs for the battle passes the game already has. Regardless, whatever EA Sports FC becomes, it should leave the scummy stuff to FIFA.