Programming and gameplay be damned, sports games live and die on their licensing. It’s why Madden was able to crush NFL2K, and it’s why EA’s FIFA (now known as EA Sports FC) has been able to grind Konami’s PES into the dust. Not because they’re better games, but because they paid to be the only games to feature the actual teams you want to see playing in the leagues you want to see them playing in.
It should surprise nobody, then, that the sums of money involved in securing those rights are approaching astronomical levels. And while we’re not often privy to the exact figures involved—video game publishers are nothing if not secretive—a leak from the sporting side of things has given us an insight into just how much EA is paying for some of its football rights, and [whistles].
Sky reports that “20 Premier League clubs were briefed at a meeting on Friday a new six-year partnership with EA Sports worth about £488m is close to being finalised”. If finalised under those terms, that works out to be around USD$588 million. So what would EA be getting for that expenditure? Here’s how the publisher describes it on FIFA 23’s website:
EA SPORTS FIFA 23 is the only place where you can experience the competition, energy and excitement of the world’s most popular league. Play with all 20 Premier League clubs, complete with their 2022/23 kits and logos and an authentic broadcast, commentary, and pre-match choreography package making it the most authentic representation of the league; exclusive to FIFA 23 players.
As Sky also report, it’s estimated to be “worth more than double the existing deal involving the two parties”. That is a lot of money, especially when you consider it’s just one of the dozens of licensing deals EA needs to sign for the series. So it should be noted that the $588 mil isn’t just for the rights to the Premier League; it’s also so EA can continue as one of the competition’s main “partners”, a sponsorship arrangement that has seen EA Sports branding appear everywhere from referee uniforms to the Premier League’s Player of the Month award.
If you’re wondering how the hell EA can afford those kinds of sums, note that the last time the publisher released financial results for its Ultimate Team digital card sales—which exist in Madden as well but which are dominated globally by FIFA fans—they had made $1.6 billion.