The FIFA series has pretty much reached its end at least in its current format.
EA Sports will rebrand their game to 'EA Sports FC' following the expiration of the rights to use the FIFA license. The title change is to be marked with a real-world initiative to improve grassroots football, and this could affect the wider footballing world.
There is certainly huge excitement surrounding the potential next steps the game could take. If EA's efforts to impact football outside the game are anything to go by, then the iconic gaming series is set to be in safe hands for years to come.
EA Sports have launched an initiative known as FC Futures ahead of the release of the first EA Sports FC title. The FC Futures movement details long-term plans to meaningfully invest in football at a grassroots level, in many different regions across the globe.
But what do EA hope to achieve by this, and what sparked the creation of the initiative?
What is FC Futures?
The FC Futures initiative aims to increase access to football playing facilities for young people around the world.
While it could help improve the quality of the game over a long-term period, the initial aims are to make the game more accessible for all and inspire larger numbers to take up the sport.
The initiative has so far consisted of constructing new playing pitches in several areas on the European continent. We caught up with EA Director James Salmon at the most recent pitch unveiling at Zinedine Zidane's Z5 complex Aix-En Provence, France.
Zidane partnered with EA Sports to produce a new pitch at his Z5 training complex. The Frenchman led a training session for children from La Castellane in Marseille as part of the event. Manchester United icon David Beckham was also featured as a special guest.
Salmon spoke to us about the initial motivations for the initiative as well as the steps that have taken place so far.
Salmon told GiveMeSport: "The aim was to inspire young people to become interested in football and improve access to football all around the globe. The long-term aim is essentially to democratise the ability to play the sport".
Part of EA's plans have already been implemented, and there have been pitches unveiled in England and France so far. Salmon told us the details of the investments EA Sports have already made, as well as the long-term plans for the initiative.
Hard to put today into words. The opening of the Rocky & Wrighty Arena at a place that means so much to us @TurnhamPrimary ♥️ Could not have done it without the support of #EASPORTSFC, @FootballFoundtn & Janet, Ryan, Mel and Monique Rocastle. pic.twitter.com/5kXQUiRSJ9
— Ian Wright (@IanWright0) April 11, 2023
He added: "We already unveiled new pitches in London with Ian Wright back in April. We of course have the event today and there are plans to invest around $10 million globally in the next few years".
There are certainly no signs that EA will slow down with their investments in the grassroots game. Europe has been the epicentre of their initiative, but now it could spread all over the world.
Is EA Sports in a strong position to inspire the next generation?
Many people that play EA Sports' football games tend to be interested in and play football in the real world.
The video game company are in a strong position in which they can reach the next generation and provide a platform for them to showcase their skills outside the games console.
Jelle Goes, Chief of Technical Football Development at UEFA who also attended the event in France told us about how the FIFA games are a proven method of provoking interest in the real-life sport.
The former Estonia national team manager said: "The investment will help many young people to become more interested in sport. The statistics show that 63% of people who are interested in EA Sports FIFA also play football. So the game is a proven method of getting people to play football for real."
EA Sports have recognised that they are in a strong position to impact player development across the globe due to the enormous reach that their game possesses.
The series will enter its 30th year following the upcoming release, and it has certainly played a huge part in increasing the popularity of the sport in all corners of the world.
Now EA is utilising its long-term success to give back to the sport that sparked its most successful video game.
How will the initiative impact coaching?
While providing sufficient facilities is important for young football players to develop, the quality of coaching is also vital.
Part of the FC Futures initiative involves simplifying coaching drills so that coaches can help young people to train more effectively.
Les Howie UEFA Grassroots Mentor told GiveMeSport about the resources that EA Sports have made available for coaches across Europe.
Howie said: "We are able to download guides to learn training drills easily, and we will also be able to use the EA Sports FC game to improve our knowledge due to this initiative.
It helps us become more connected to the game, and we are constantly improving our methods of coaching".
The former FA Head of Grassroots coach also told us about the impact that these added resources can have on the delivery of football coaching.
He said: "In years of the past you had to know a lot of technical information and to study a lot to understand how to coach certain drills. This makes things a lot simpler - it democratises the ability to play the sport and offers fresh opportunities to coaches".
These resources will be available to coaches across all the UEFA associations. This means that improvements in coaching knowledge and delivery could be seen all over the continent in the coming years.
UEFA Grassroots Specialist Ulf-Rauno Marquard told us about how the initiative is helping to bring the national associations across the continent closer together.
The Swiss coach told GiveMeSport: "The EA Sports Initiative helps us coaches to become more connected. All of our 55 UEFA nation associations have been brought closer together. We can now work together to improve the quality of coaching across Europe."
EA's initiative is set to improve opportunities for players and coaches alike. Democratising football is a clear underlying aim, and bringing associations together is a positive side effect of FC Futures.
How important are EA's partnerships with footballing legends?
A key feature of the FC Futures campaign so far has been the prevalence of footballing icons at EA's pitch unveilings. Ian Wright was present in London back in April, and Real Madrid Legend Zidane headlined the Aix-En Provence event alongside Beckham.
Zidane has allowed his own football facility to take centre stage for the FC Futures initiative. UEFA's Howie also spoke to us at the event about the active role Zidane has taken in the process.
The coaching veteran said: "Zidane is playing an active role in the process. He was really enthusiastic about working with EA Sports FC. His and Beckham's involvement in training sessions is about as authentic as it comes in terms of inspiring young children to go far in the sport.
They don't forget where they came from, we all come from a grassroots level and some of us make it."
Zidane has given significant amounts of his time in order to offer the greatest inspiration that he could to young children from the area he grew up in. Professional footballers alongside EA are giving back to the sport that has delivered them so much success in the past.
Like legends such as Zidane and Beckham, EA Sports have not forgotten their roots. They are giving back to the football world which has passionately supported their video game over four different decades.