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EA sets its sights beyond console football with new FIFA deal

Football titles go mobile, online - and out to a wider audience than ever

This week's extension of Electronic Arts' licensing deal with FIFA to 2014 will give the publisher the time to realise its ambitions to bring its football proposition beyond traditional gaming, a senior exec at the firm has told GamesIndustry.biz.

The new deal, which runs from 2007 through to 2014, is designed to allow EA to continue to build football offerings in the mobile and online spaces as well as the traditional interactive gaming market.

However, according to Clive Downie, EA Sports' marketing boss for Europe, the company's football ambitions stretch far beyond that - and securing an extension to its long-running FIFA partnership was an important step towards its goals.

"What it allows us to do is essentially to live out our aspirations in the football business, up to their fruition, I would hope," he commented in an exclusive interview with this site. "I say the football business meaning the larger football business which we see that we're involved in, rather than just interactive football."

"As we move into the area of mainstream entertainment, the world of interactive football which EA has pioneered has really started spilling over into the world of "real football," if you like.," he continued. "It's starting to be perceived as a bone fide part of that football universe that fans from all over the world participate in at varying level."

"This, then, speaks to our aspiration - our aspiration is to reach as many football fans around the world and interact with their life and their love of football, as we can. Not just football gamers, but football fans, and the extension of this FIFA partnership allows us to do that. It gives us the time that we need to, essentially, shoot for the moon - because it's a major proposition to go after the world football fans. We think we're pretty close to cracking the world's football gamers."

EA's vision for extending its offering beyond traditional interactive football encompasses burgeoning platforms such as mobile gaming - where EA Mobile's FIFA Football product has been a relative success story - and the online space.

Crucially, according to Downie, the giant publisher's vision of where it sees its role in the football market evolving is also shared by FIFA itself.

"I don't wish to speak for them, because they have their own mind," he cautioned, "but certainly, yes, in my perception of it. They have agreed to this partnership and to the extension of our partnership, which is putting their trust in EA - that's the first point, the fact that we've been able to broker this deal, and it's a long-term deal in the sports marketplace."

"The second point which points to FIFA believing in interactive as part of the football world is their pioneering of the FIFA Interactive World Cup. That's a bridging mechanism that FIFA have seen over the past two years, and it will continue this year, between the world of football and the world of interactive football. So yes, we certainly do see EA's ability to connect with football fans around the world and to connect with the broader football category as something that they're very excited about."

Ultimately, he claims, EA's goal in the marketplace may be ambitious, but it's a logical conclusion of the publisher's activity to date in this space. "The underlying thought is that before you are a football gamer, you're a football fan," he explained. "It's the lowest common denominator for the maximum amount of people on this planet. It's a very exciting market proposition for us."

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