FIFA is one of the most profitable video game franchises of all time. Although Electronic arts does not release sales figures, the US publisher revealed earlier this year that in the nearly 30-year life of the series sold 325 million units.
Without going any further, the most recent of its publications, FIFA 21, was the best-selling game of 2020 in several countries. It is estimated that the last editions of FIFA placed more than 20 million units each, a figure that is not bad at all for an annual franchise.
But the thing does not end there, since to the sales of the games (in physical or digital format) we must also add the income generated by micropayments, especially through the popular online mode FIFA Ultimate Team. According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Ryan Gee – via Engadget – before the pandemic this mode billed around $ 900 million a year.
It’s a great deal for Electronic Arts – a free game Free toPlay within a paid one– and a clear example of that famous saying that “if something works, don’t touch it”.
However, it would not be unreasonable if in the next few years Electronics Arts (EA) decided to turn its business model 180 degrees. And is that FIFA could end up being a free game, and it would make all the sense in the world, just as as his historic rival eFootball just announced, formerly known by its acronym PES.
Free games, a growing business
The theory of a possible Free FIFA It has been around the universe of this popular simulator for some time.
In recent days that rumor has gained strength again as a result of some messages from “DonkTrading”, a anonymous source known for previous accurate leaks about the franchise, who assures that FIFA 22, which will go on sale on October 1, will be the last payment installment of the payment series, since from FIFA 23 it could become a free game with micropayments.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the game that raised the most money thanks to micropayments.
Before considering this possibility, it is important to clarify that this is unofficial information and that Electronic Arts did not pronounce on it. Now, it is a hypothesis that, if fulfilled, would fit with many of the movements that the electronic entertainment industry in recent years.
One of the trends in the sector is the increasing difference between revenue generated by free games with micropayments –What is known as Free to Play– and games with a more traditional business model –or “Freemium” -, those that are usually sold with a closed price (around $ 60 in both physical and digital formats.
Although at first glance it may seem contradictory, in recent years the games with the highest income were those that are offered in free form, generally through mobile devices.
Free games for mobile devices, such as Roblox, are the ones that raise the most money.
According to the market analysis firm SuperData (via GamesIndustry), in 2020 the titles with the highest turnover in the world were Honor of kings (2.45 billion dollars), Peacekeeper Elite (2,320 million) and Roblox (2,290 million).
These three games earned significantly more revenue than the top three “Freemium” games achieved: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (1,910 million), FIFA 20 (1,080 million) and Grand theft auto v (911 million).
How can a free game get so much revenue? Basically, trying to get as much profit as possible from the small percentage of players who decide to spend money.
This percentage of players may be small compared to all users who have downloaded the title, but it can also represent a large number if the immeasurable market of people with access to a smartphone is taken into account.
The Fortnite model
Fornite was (and is) the great phenomenon of free games in recent years. Despite being a free download game, its developer Epic Games not only got record billings in the history of the interactive medium, but has popularized systems to make the user feel linked to the game and decide to spend money periodically thanks to the so-called battle passes / seasons.
Fortnite does not stop raising money on consoles, PC and cell phones. Photo: REUTERS.
Call of Duty, one of the few franchises capable of overshadowing FIFA in the traditional retail market, recently switched to the Free-to-Play model with the launch of Call of Duty: Warzone.
Launch a free version did not have a negative result on Activision profits, quite the opposite. In 2020, the best-selling game of the year in the United States was Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, a premium version that was clearly enhanced by the success of Warzone, its free side.
In the same way that Activision offers this Call of Duty multiplayer for free, it would not be strange to think that Electronic Arts could do the same with the popular FIFA FUT mode and, thus, reach more public. At the end of the day FIFA Mobile has been available for years for free, a simplified version and for mobile devices (iOS and Android) of the full experience available for consoles and PC.
As in the Electronic Arts game, the full experience is still paid, but information recently emerged about the possibility that the Japanese Konami game will go definitively to Free-to-Play mode. It was suggested a few days ago by specialized journalist Andy Robinson (via GamesRadar), known for his contacts with the Japanese company, and it materialized this week.
Be it FIFA or PES, it is more than likely that sooner or later we will see movements in these great entertainment brands with respect to their business models. At the end of the day, the video game market is increasingly complex, and companies are betting on multiple monetization systems to reach their entire potential audience.
With information from La Vanguardia.