Ted Lasso has won over 1 million football games.
Not the fictional football manager from the hit Apple TV+ sports sitcom ‘Ted Lasso’, played by Jason Sudeikis, but the digital avatar of the AFC Richmond gaffer playable in career mode in ‘FIFA 23’. which started in September.
Players have chosen to use the character, which is included in this year’s edition of the best-selling football video game for the first time as part of a partnership with the Emmy-winning show, enough to have won more than a million games with him, according to “FIFA 23” publisher, Electronic Arts.
Those wins are from some of the record 10.3 million users who bought and played the game in the first week after its public debut on Sept. 30, the company said.
The game also features Lasso’s fictional club AFC Richmond and its Nelson Road stadium (in the “Rest of World” clubs section), along with unlockable content from the show and other characters from the series, including players Roy Kent, Jamie Tartt, Dani. Rojas, Sam Obisanya and Isaac McAdoo.
Ted Lasso himself, of course, is the headliner. How and why did Electronic Arts end up putting the character and his team in the game?
Obviously, the football connection made immediate sense, but making the partnership work required negotiations and technological efforts. This can often be a complicated and slow process, but it was at least slightly sped up thanks to both sides wanting to see it through.
“We’re often fans of each other’s work,” Cam Weber, executive vice president and group general manager at EA Sports, said on a recent call with The Athlete. “It became clear that the actors in the show were fans and were playing FIFA. There was definitely a passion on both sides that made both teams want to work together.”
The idea to include the characters and content of the series in a FIFA game started with the goal of being included in “FIFA 22”. It took longer to come to fruition because Electronic Arts has production and development cycles for how games are made and specific windows in pre-production of what will be built into titles like FIFA each year, Weber said. So Ted Lasso had to wait until this content was integrated into the game.
Once the timing was right, it wasn’t a particularly onerous task to integrate the TV show into the video game.
“It’s content we’re used to building — adding stadiums, teams, kits,” Weber said. “It’s work we do all the time.”
On the legal side, EA had to make deals with Apple TV, Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment and acting talent “Ted Lasso”. Nothing has been released about the deals.
FIFA producers and developers traveled to London to conduct facial scans on the ‘Ted Lasso’ set, working around the cast’s production schedule.
Actor voices are not included. So no Roy Kent profanity in the “E” rated game.
A message was left for Sudeikis, who rose to fame through his tenure on “Saturday Night Live” and subsequent film and television roles, through his management.
“He’s a big fan of the game and it’s been a pleasure working with him,” Weber said.
Sudeikis made a statement through Electronic Arts when the “FIFA 23” deal was announced: “I am truly fortunate and deeply grateful to have had many special moments in my career so far, and I consider this experience to be one of the best of them. As a longtime fan of “FIFA” by EA Sports, the integration of Ted Lasso and the entire AFC Richmond team in the latest version of the game is truly a dream come true for me and the rest of my colleagues.
Tactics like the “Ted Lasso” partnership make sense for EA to keep the franchise fresh as it enters its fourth decade amid a major change: This year’s game will be the last to use FIFA’s name on the title before it transitions to “EA Sports FC” next year due to a licensing dispute.
EA has published FIFA games since 1993 and has reportedly generated over $20 billion in sales to make it one of the most successful video games of all time and the best selling sports game ever. It is estimated that over 150 million people play the game in over 200 countries.
How has it performed so far? In addition to the game’s 10.3 million first-week users – the best ever for any FIFA game, the company said – in the game’s first 23 days on the market, 15.7 billion minutes were spent playing 1.7 billion games with 4.3 billion goals so far, EA said.
“We’ve had an amazing launch and extremely strong engagement,” Weber said.
The real Premier League players who most resemble the AFC Richmond team in FIFA 23
Mat Piscatella, the top video game industry analyst at The NPD Group, isn’t sure what kind of sales or gameplay impact “Ted Lasso” has on “FIFA 23” because no detailed data or research is available.
“It certainly seems like a great tie with a lot of relevance, but there’s really no way for me to make any assessment as to what it meant for the title overall,” he said. “It’s off to a great start, as are many of the other big games out right now (it doesn’t hurt that the competitive window for games is pretty light this year) – but it’s too early to really say anything else.”
Will Ted Lasso and the rest of the characters return in future editions of EA’s soccer franchise?
That decision has yet to be made, the company said.
For now, the fantasy content is generally well received by fans and critics alike.
Andrew Webster at The Verge wrote positively about playing “Ted Lasso” content, going so far as to put AFC Richmond in Major League Soccer and dominate America’s top teams. His only complaint was the lack of dialogue limits how much the spirit of the series makes the game.
“The game does a great job of accurately recreating the looks of actors like Phil Dunster, Toheeb Jimoh, Kola Bokinni and Cristo Fernández so they look much like they do on the show. I mean, just look at the virtual representation of Jason Sudeikis’ mustache,” he wrote.
Others were more critical while echoing that sentiment.
“Just as superheroes are fun because of their powers, not their costumes, ‘Ted Lasso’ is great because of its characters’ personalities, not their names,” wrote Luke Saward at Screenrant.com, noting that the inclusion of imaginary grounds meant some real pitches are absent.
The game features 19,000 players, 700 teams, 100 stadiums and 30 leagues. This year’s edition also includes the top divisions of women’s football in England (Barclays Women’s Super League) and in France (Division 1 Arkema).
The upcoming men’s and women’s FIFA World Cup tournaments will be part of the game as upcoming free downloadable content. The game is played on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
FIFA 23 has taken a step towards women’s equality, but there is a long way to go
For the uninitiated, Ted Lasso (originally an NBC Sports promo character) is a charming, popular American Division II college soccer coach hired on the show by the new owner of a fictional Premier League soccer club to abuse her ex-husband, the team’s former owner because Lasso doesn’t know the game and assumes his incompetence will destroy the club. Instead, Lasso turns out to be likable — and the series quickly became a streaming hit and critical acclaim.
It premiered on Apple TV+ in 2020 and had a second season last year. A third has been ordered and is in production.
The inclusion of the “Ted Lasso” characters in the game is part of Electronic Arts’ broader strategy to merge pop culture and entertainment partnerships with its video game library as it seeks to grow users and capitalize on its $7.5 billion in revenue. fiscal year 2022.
“We see EA Sports very much at the center of sports culture and fandom,” Weber said. “We are looking for more opportunities to expand our reach in pop culture, sports culture and entertainment.”
With Nickelodeon, EA’s “Madden” NFL football franchise will be central to an upcoming Paramount+ comedy “Fantasy Football” in which a player’s daughter discovers she can control him on the field using the game “Madden NFL 23” . It will premiere on November 25.
With Marvel Entertainment, Electronic Arts puts star players in superhero outfits as part of the FIFA Ultimate Team mode in the new soccer game.
Electronic Arts plans to explore more sports-entertainment video game partnerships in the future, but is not yet revealing details.
“You’re going to see a lot more of this in the future,” Weber said.
(Ted Lasso screenshot from “FIFA 23”: Courtesy of EA Sports)