Football video games have changed the course of history beyond the virtual world. And soon, the balance of power in football video games may change into a competition between titles under the same developer.
Football is popular on all levels – professional, college, prep, and international. There is something for everyone to like, even those who follow NFL expert picks, with the legalization of sports gambling across the United State becoming more prevalent. Fairly soon, football fans may prefer one video game title over the other.
The popular EA Sports NCAA Football video game series is nearing a return. It started in 1993 and ran through 2013 before the National Collegiate Athletic Association pulled its license. Conferences also pulled their licenses.
But now the franchise is back on, and while its delivery changed from summer 2023 to 2024, fans can not wait to get back to playing college football. It may even rival the popular Madden series, featuring the National Football League, though EA Sports produces both titles.
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Why the hiatus?
The NCAA and major conferences got cold feet when it came time to renew the license with the game’s developers. The issue stemmed from the organization, leagues, schools, and companies benefitting from players’ likeness. Ed O’Bannon represented former collegiate athletes in a lawsuit that led to the license being pulled.
While the cover athletes and artwork were always of players who had graduated or turned pro, the developers had built athletes with similar attributes and appearances to those players still in school. It was to simulate a real game as fans would see that season based on previous years’ results. But at that time, athletes couldn’t profit off their name, image, and likeness due to amateur status.
That is when the NCAA and power conferences pulled their license agreements to avoid further lawsuits.
Why is it returning?
Beginning in 2021, college athletes could benefit financially from their name, image, and likeness. They could appear at events or in commercials for a fee. They could charge fans for autographs and pictures. They could make money off producing their content on social media platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and more.
Now that collegiate athletes can make money from what they look like, the video game franchise announced it would return. Surely legal teams are involved with all parties as athletes will likely sign a blanket agreement that pays each football player the same amount to have their likeness and attributes in the game. Of course, players can deny it if they so choose.
That also means teams and leagues can negotiate their deals or as a group like the NCAA and other entities had negotiated before. Only some teams are confirmed for the new game but perhaps with a pushback to the start date, that will be worked out.
Still wildly popular
The college football series is wildly popular. EA Sports has used the College Football Playoff and selected universities in its Madden franchise during a single-player offline mode with a created player. It simulates the career of a player in a first-person story mode.
The real popularity is apparent on community streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube. Gamers and everyday people are playing a modified version of the game that features updated uniforms, teams, conferences, and players that are unaffiliated with the company that produced the final college football video game. So far, there has been no legal action against those producing them.
But those streams draw high numbers and are sometimes ranked among the top five games streamed in a single day on those platforms. There is a rabid fan base awaiting the return of a college football video game.
Madden has had its gameplay issues for years, though allegedly made strides with its latest edition. But even years after the college football title ceased production, Madden was behind in its gameplay engine, and improved graphics wasn’t enough to win people over.
There is speculation the new college football game will have an ultimate team mode that combines legends with the latest stars. That would be a game-changer, and sales could rival that of the NFL franchise.