EA’s CEO, Andrew Wilson, has indicated that they are considering stopping yearly releases.
During an interview with Bloomberg, Wilson was asked:
"Would there ever come a day when you don't release new titles on your franchises every year and just release online content, like Take-Two does with Grand Theft Auto?"
To which he responded:
“The short answer is yes. There's a few different things that have got to happen first. We do a lot in a FIFA game every year, and a lot in a Madden game. There's a lot of code that we make available as part of the new iteration. But when we look at what we do in Korea or China, we don't do it that way. There, every four years we release a new big code drop, and we offer incremental change over time.
"So what we see in Korea and China, what we see on mobile, I think there's a world where that might also happen in other parts of our business."
Which all sounds fairly positive to the idea. With modern games often acting as a service with regular updates and microtransactions (which FIFA already has), it makes sense for the game to swap over to this model, especially when each year’s changes don’t always justify a full price release.
If the latest generation of consoles also experience long lifetimes, it seems beneficial to improve on a solid foundations rather than start from scratch each year. The main hurdle EA may have to overcome is simple adapting people’s views to the new service as fans of a series are often highly resistive to change.
FIFA continues to sell millions of copies worldwide each year, so this may not be a rapid transfer, but it’s likely to come in the long-term, with some adaptions to the game’s systems. Updating to the latest roster of players on your favourite team may be charged for as DLC, for example.
With such a big series running behind the methods many modern games now operate under, it’ll be interesting to see how EA apply the shift if it comes.