Case Study: EA SPORTS FC 24
Case Study: EA SPORTS FC 24
The process of rebranding the best-selling sports video game of all time.

It takes a certain level of ubiquity for a brand to represent the entirety of a product. Think Google for searching, BAND-AID for wounds or a Popsicle for ice-cream. So why would an entity belonging to that lucky few choose to rebrand, and what happens to its legacy when it does? This is one of the many questions posed by fans in regards to EA SPORTS’ longstanding football series, FIFA, which officially ended its 30-year partnership with the governing organization last year and will soon make its official debut as EA SPORTS FC.

“Imagine being confronted by that blank piece of paper [as you’re trying to build a global game]?” David Jackson, the game’s VP of Brand, tells HYPEBEAST. Starting with the elephant in the room, any name besides FIFA will likely come with scorn from most fans, as the title is etched in our collective memory. Years from now, however, it may be a blessing in disguise that EA chose a name change, for the governing body’s track record has been far from exemplary.

In 2015, 14 FIFA officials, including five corporate executives, were indicted for racketeering charges to “enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer.” The last two FIFA World Cups in Russia and Qatar also came with a number of similar violations, with a New York Times report saying that organization officials were bribed for the rights to host the tournament; and the latter contest being marred by a slew of humanitarian concerns.

Another major reason for the split is the “fractured” world of football licensing. Unlike, say, American football, which would require two licenses to field Madden — a partnership with the NFL itself and the NFLPA (NFL Players Association) — world football is split amongst various organizations all clawing for revenue. FIFA 23 featured over 350 to be exact. Nonetheless, the gaming giant understood the gravity of changing the face of a beloved franchise, and is well aware of the backlash from football fans if they were to get it wrong. Just ask Atlético Madrid.

The franchise’s new angular aesthetic can be traced all the way back to FIFA’s 8-bit graphics, which were based on isometric viewing angles — meant to replicate a three-dimensional look for a two-dimensional system. “When you fuse all of that together, you have to come up with an identity that is sharp enough, literally sharp enough, in the case of our logo to enter the brain quickly and stay there for a long time,” Jackson added. “It has to resonate with something true about football culture. If you really, really love football, and the dynamic interplay of the game, and how it works on the field, you understand that triangles are the single most important shape.”

Fittingly, many visual signifiers in the upcoming title are made of triangular polygons, including the player signifiers above the head to the dynamic chemistry between players in Ultimate Team, which is also predicated on a triangle. “You do get that kind of eureka moment,” mused Jackson, “after many months of working through a lot of ways that this thing could look — we found one that we felt was representative of the way that it should look.”

“It’s a brand new experience.”

When the first installment of FIFA launched back in 1993, Olympique de Marseille won the UEFA Champions League — signaling just how much has changed over the past 30 years. While ahead for its time, those early games, in hindsight, are like the graphical equivalent of the now famed Cristiano Ronaldo statue in the Madeira Airport — almost there, but not quite it. Today, video games are so realistic that some choose to play the sport on the console, rather than on the pitch — especially considering the added immersion brought on by augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Add in the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and it’s hard to keep track of the growing role of technology within our lives. But Jackson reminds us that “football is human” at the end of the day. “The intricacy of how Erling Haaland takes the first touch and holds his body and moves is a very human set of dynamics.”

EA’s job, as it always has been, is to stay ahead of the curve, by seeing what is achievable in interactive entertainment. AI will surely help assist the progression of in-play ability, where an update that may have taken three months to develop in the past, may only take “three days,” according to the brand director, adding that “AI is going to augment and evolve player experience versus replace it.”

While the name switch is itself a big change, the actual features within FC 24 are just as noteworthy. Starting with HyperMotionV — the V stands for Volumetric Capture Technology — players will be able to recreate some of the most dynamic physical attributes from their favorite players, thanks to a set of cameras in the actual stadiums and pitches, resulting in “the exact player motion that happens in real games.” This isn’t reserved for a select few superstars, but can be experienced across 1,200 running styles. So if it happens on the pitch, “It’s in the Game,” as EA’s slogan goes.

One of the major joys of playing any sports video game has always been the ability to vicariously live through the shoes of our favorite athletes. The new Play Styles component specifically recreates the signature abilities of football’s current stars — from Sam Kerr to Vinícius Júnior. There are 34 new play styles for all positions on the pitch, including Long Ball Pass, Tiki Taka, Power Header, and much more. Player and Manager Career modes have also been revamped to mirror the ebbs and flow of a given season, such as your ability to award players as a coach, in regards to awarding individual players’ attributes throughout a season, and being able to set their training plans to counter a particular club’s pre-match report.

As would be expected for any new title, the graphics are gorgeous. Made in collaboration with DICE’s Frostbite engine, players move more faithfully to real-life motions, as do the kits they wear, along with the fans in the stadium to the pitches which scrape away with the flow of the game. “It’s super important to our fans and ourselves that the game from EA SPORTS always delivers true authenticity of the representation of the real world of the sport,” noted Jackson, describing that many of these innovations have been years in the making. “So from the very first experience of loading up either a console or mobile game that we deliver, you’ll know that this is not just another FIFA, it is a brand new experience.”

EA SPORTS FC 24 will be globally available to purchase tomorrow, September 29, for Playstation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X and Series S, as well as Microsoft Windows.

All photos courtesy of EA SPORTS.