There is a notable echo here of another leaked comment attributed to Wilson that the Fifa license was actually “an obstacle” to the growth of video gaming. I ask Jackson what EA Sports can do now that it couldn’t do before.
“While we were called Fifa, there was this sort of act of repetition,” he explains, “there’s like an annual cycle around this game. “What did we do last year?” And how can we improve this year?’ It’s iterative versus innovative. The mindset shift now, starting from a blank piece of paper and being able to move forward is really, really valuable to us. Now we can be more expansive about the experiences we offer beyond gaming.
“We really believe we are an interactive experiences organization,” Jackson continues. “This doesn’t have to mean something limited to the mobile phone and gaming sense, or to a console. We believe that in the future we will have the opportunity to expand the current ways in which fans interact with football content, be it broadcast rights and intellectual property, multimedia platforms and passive forms of entertainment relating to predictions, live scores and highlights . This wasn’t necessarily achievable for us when we didn’t own our intellectual property and it is now.”
If this sounds like a long-term plan, that’s because it is. The first milestone is the launch of EA Sports FC, or “FC” as EA Sports hopes it will be called.
“This was part of the audible design choice we made,” Jackson says of the naming process, “making sure it was short and concise and could be shared around the water cooler or on the playground.”
The game itself will be kept under wraps until the reveal event in Amsterdam in July, and Jackson has no plans to reveal specific new features. Instead, he insists that players will recognize pretty much from the start that EA Sports FC is something truly new and innovative compared to another annual update with a different name.
One such innovation could be better integration of the women’s game. EA Sports has supported women’s football, putting Chelsea striker Sam Kerr on the cover of Fifa 23 alongside Kylian Mbappe and licensing the UK’s WSL, North America’s NWSL and France’s Division 1 Feminene. However, the women’s teams felt a little sidelined compared to the men’s teams. Did the FIFA license impose any restrictions in this sense?
“No, I don’t think so,” Jackson considers, before clarifying his answer. “There’s a difference between maybe restriction and then intent, and I think we’re very, very intent on elevating and accelerating women’s soccer.
“Frankly, we weren’t in a position to effectively include women’s club football in our titles until about two years ago. So we’ve undertaken a really in-depth body of research to educate our organization, from our code base engineers and technicians all the way down to our marketing and commercial organization to make people understand that women’s soccer is different.
“It’s different physically, it’s different from a business model perspective, it’s different culturally, we had to really and deeply understand it before we could hope to execute it well. And from the moment we did this work and felt educated enough to be able to deliver authentic women’s football, we have seen tremendous success ever since.