EA Sports Could Lose The Exclusive License For NFL Games – But They Won’t

The deal that ruined football gaming for almost a decade is scheduled to expire this year.  EA Sports and Madden have been synonymous with declining quality and innovation ever since coming to an agreement with the NFL and NFLPA to have exclusive rights for an NFL video game.  This essentially did away with any of the NFL games you might have played instead of Madden over the years before that fateful day in 2004.

While there is no doubt that Madden’s sales have been impressive for the 25 years that it has been around, there is cause for concern when there is a consistent feeling among consumers that the game is nothing more than a roster update every year.  To call Madden a simulation experience would be like calling Call of Duty a military simulator.  On the surface there is ‘football’ but once you boot the game and start playing it will feel more like a half-scripted arcade game with decent graphics, canned animations and poor physics.

When the exclusive license expires it will be more of a ceremonial expiration than anything to get excited about if you are a 2K Football fan.  This is because the NFL and the NFLPA (Players Association) are going to renew the deal.  Electronic Arts (EA) is like the New York Yankees of game development.  They are easily the most hated team in sports, their fans tend to be loud and obnoxious and they really don’t have to worry about sales every year… because they are the Yankees.  There is a big problem with the Yankees and that is starting to show on the field and in the front office (See A-Rod, etc.), much like EA and their overall performance as a game developer by and large.

Over the last few weeks EA has been ridiculed for their terrible release of the new SimCity game on PC.  They flubbed the launch in so many ways that you had to almost ask yourself if someone sabotaged them.  They had server issues that prevented people from playing the game when it came out.  Then they had numerous other issues that stemmed from their use of DRM (Digital Rights Management).  DRM being put into the game is a sign that EA fears piracy, and why shouldn’t they?  Gaming has slipped into a realm of Catch 22 that few other industries have had to deal with outside of music and movies.  What you will start to notice is that when people want to support a business or a certain way of doing things they will speak with their wallet’s/purse’s/allowance.

The sales of Madden have been relatively stable over the course of the 360/PS3 generation of consoles.  This is coupled with the fact that the NFL has been bringing in billions of dollars as the favorite sport and form of entertainment of the United States.  It is going to be hard to tell either party that they should change what is going so well for them financially.  This is the primary reason why the exclusive license will carry on between EA Sports, the NFL and the NFLPA.  Money talks and so far the football gaming community has been speaking EA’s language.

The glimmer of hope can be found in the fact that EA lost exclusive rights to NCAA and Arena Football.  While the AFL is about as popular as VHS Tapes – college football is a huge business and a potentially open market for a developer like 2K Sports to take advantage of if they wanted to bring some sort of competition to EA’s doorstep.  There is a somewhat large group of football gamers that prefer NCAA Football over NFL football and EA’s NCAA Football has been less than stellar over the last few years.  Hopefully we will see a company like 2K Sports step up to the plate and work on a football game once again.  Lord knows they haven’t stepped up to the plate for hockey this year and they keep striking out on their baseball titles.

The best thing for Madden NFL is competition and they know it will make them have to step up their game.  Which is exactly why they will continue to hold the exclusive license for NFL gaming.  You can have hope that it will expire and not be renewed, but don’t hold your breath.

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College Football’s Negative Impact On EA’s NCAA Football Franchise

Over the past few years I have been a staunch supporter of NCAA Football over Madden NFL.  EA Sports has truly dropped the ball on both games in multiple ways over this entire generation of consoles (PS3 and 360).  Many can blame the glitches and problems on the apparent dependency that developers have on releasing software updates and patches through online interactions.  While these kind of ‘hot fixes’ are vital to software (including games) it seems to have left the door open to sloppy development over the course of a year.  This isn’t even the biggest problem facing EA’s NCAA Football at this point – it is the college football landscape itself.

Bye Bye BCS… Hello new broken game development.

In case you haven’t paid any attention to college sports over the last few years, there have been teams moving from conference to conference more than Bobby Petrino switches teams (and women).  On top of conference changes and re-alignments, the NCAA has recently approved the move to a new playoff system (finally).  This is welcome news to the people that still pay attention to the NFL’s minor league affiliate, but for gaming fans it is a dreaded issue that is too far into the future to allow them any sort of desire to want to invest in more broken games without any sort of tournament or playoff system for college football gaming.  Why waste time and money on a game that changes faces so often?

College football is a joke in many ways but when it comes to the hypocritical billion dollar deals for the services of ‘amateur’ athletes with coaches that make millions of dollars a year over networks like ESPN – why is it that the gaming end of things is so strangely broken as well?  College football is a farce and NCAA Football is a digital farce that continues the NCAA’s views that making money off of college football is paramount.  The broken BCS system is just as broken in the video game as it is in real life but now there are gamers clamoring for something worse than fixing issues that plague a game… they want options.

Gamers want to edit players, names, conferences, polls, ranking calculations, awards, coaches, CPU intelligence and many other facets of their game.  This is all simply because that whenever EA Sports slaps together their annual sports titles they are constantly closing off customization more than opening it to users for a better experience.  Maybe they should take a look at how much games like Counter-Strike can become huge in the PC market – all because of modders and an active user base.

NCAA Football 13 went from $60 to $45 rather quickly this year.  It was as if it was a hyped up movie that hit theaters for a week before going to DVD and your local Big Lots bargain bin.  EA Sports has proven over this generation of consoles that there is no level too low for them to stoop in terms of laziness and development to keep your money coming in with their effort consistently falling.  This isn’t to say that Madden NFL doesn’t have issues mind you (we will hit that later) – but with the NCAA season coming to a close and many college football fans looking to next year we must wonder – what is EA going to do in NCAA 14 that will keep gamers from thinking “I’ll just wait until next year – if at all.”?

Let the 2K College Football rumors begin.