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“Do you want to play FIFA after school?” is probably a familiar sentence across classrooms all over the world and in many different languages. From SEGA Mega Drive to PS5, EA Sports’ beloved series of soccer games has been a staple in the rapidly moving gaming industry for 30 years. That time has come to an end. It’s done. If FIFA was a soccer player, it would now get an End of an Era special edition card in Ultimate Team.

Those four letters easily roll off the tongue and everyone knows what you mean by saying them – the game series has long since surpassed its namesake in terms of brand recognition. Gianni Infantin-who?

The game and the federation’s name have become synonymous and even if the series rebrands to EA Sports FC this year, people will very likely continue to call it FIFA.

“It wouldn't surprise me, yes, that in the short term, there's still a little bit of overhang with the amazing experiences delivered in the past,” admits David Jackson, VP of Brand at EA Sports. We sat down together in a cool London hotel, with the new branding in monochrome behind him, to talk about the future of the game and his love of soccer.

EA Sports want us to be talking about FC, now. Same game, new jersey. Unleashed over Easter weekend by every social media channel under EA’s command, the rebranding was made official. Pitchside branding at locations across Europe accompanied the deluge of internet posts.

“To see it come to life in the world of football, and have it be showcased through the lens of hundreds and hundreds of our partners all over the world. All the way from La Liga and Real Madrid, all the way through to League Two here in England, so the rebrand means the world to us,” Jackson beams.

It feels a bit early to get drip-fed information about a game that releases in September. FIFA 23 is still there. Team of the Season is about to kick off. Actual information about the game is expected in July. With domestic leagues and international competitions reaching their climax in the coming weeks, however, it seems that EA has identified this as an opportune timing to stick its flag into the ground – the new, shiny one.

“The brand and its identity and vision went live through the lens of football - that's where it lives most strongly,” he responds, putting my thoughts about FIFA 23 being abandoned early to bed.

“We know we have a responsibility to make sure that there's no confusion in the space around what was a FIFA product and what that will look like in the future… We also know that we exist in the context of global football, and the seasons at the moment in some of the major leagues are really heating up.”

That’s all according to plan. EA Sports has been preparing for this divorce a long time. “[We’ve been planning for] a number of years now, working to ensure that we had our own platform and our own brand that we could invest deeply and on behalf of our players,” Jackson says.

Obviously, the two former partners in crime had different views on the subject of money. What else is EA Sports looking to gain from this move, though?

“It's the freedom for us to be able to consider anything that we want to do in the future and not have it be limited or curtailed by any third party,” he says.

“This brand is ours and ours alone, to build on behalf of partners and players all over the world.”

Jackson is very relaxed when I ask him if he is fussed about people continuing to call his game FIFA. It’s a game I’ve played since 2002, and it’ll be hard for me to make the change.

“We think over time people will call the platform FC,” he says. “Then, via osmosis over time, it'll become very obvious that this is an FC product. Or this is an FC experience and it comes from EA Sports.”

In terms of brand identity, EA went with triangles as prominent shapes. An EA Sports press release describes it as ‘a dominant shape in [soccer] culture that represents the sport in multiple dimensions’. It’s certainly present in every match of FIFA as the player indicator symbol above the head of all the athletes on the pitch, so that makes sense. The response online has been a bit divided. For the majority of the 150 million users that EA claims FIFA has, it probably makes no difference. Jackson doesn’t want apathy, though.

“We've heard some really positive reactions to the visual identity, and we've equally heard some challenging feedback as well,” he says. “That's okay. What we didn't want is any middle of the road sort of easy to ignore feedback.

“There's at least something memorable in the identity that we're looking to deliver and all of that feedback is really welcome”

Without the shackles of a third-party around its ankles, EA Sports is confident that it can remain a part of soccer culture around the globe. Over 19,000 fully licensed players, more than 700 teams and over 30 leagues will be present in the debut EA SPORTS FC title. Jackson’s team has built relationships with 300 global soccer partners, including UEFA, that will allow further expansion into areas including both women’s and grassroots soccer.

That starts with FC Futures, a charitable initiative that is investing $10 million into the grassroots game, in real life.

FC Futures launched its first project at a primary school in South London, the ‘Rocky and Wrighty Arena’, where Arsenal FC and England icon Ian Wright went to school. Wright is the first ambassador for FC Futures, along with Emma Hayes, the manager of Chelsea FC’s Women’s team.

That, Jackson says, is just part of the project. “We're going to democratize a library of practices through the lens of the [game] engine where coaches can go online and download those practices and be able to use them in their plans.

“The final thing is technical packs, where people will get access to cones and bibs and balls to be able to use on the pitches that we build, so that we can really actively reinvest in the real world of football.”

You could certainly take a cynical look at that and call it guilt money for dragging people off from the actual pitch and in front of their screens. Jackson’s words, though, betray a genuine love for the sport, regardless of where or how it is played.

“So some research that we did sort of neuters or counters maybe a perception that our game detract from people playing football in the real world, we found that 63% of people, if they play our game, are disproportionately more likely to play football in the real world,” Jackson explains.

“It's super, super important for our teams and our partners to know that we are investing in young people's access to the world of real football and their fandom of the sport. And it's really genuinely important to me as well.”

And for Jackson, a father living in Canada and a big Everton fan, it’s personal, too.

“I have three young kids, I see what it's like when you do have access [to quality facilities to play] in Canada and where you don't, in previous places we've lived,” he says. “It's night and day in terms of their love for the sport once they can play and once they can play with facilities that are adequate for you know their needs.”

EA SPORTS FC 24 is expected to launch in September 2023.