The lights are on
EA Sports has announced that it will not put out a college football title next year, a change from what was previously stated. The future of video game college football is on hold.
In July, after the release of NCAA Football 14, the NCAA decided to not renew its licensing agreement with Electronic Arts amidst the association's continuing legal battle with players seeking compensation for the NCAA's use of their likenesses. Although the NCAA Football franchise – per NCAA rules – did not use the names of real-life players, it was exhibit A in the players' lawsuit against the NCAA.
Shortly after the NCAA's announcement, Electronic Arts said the franchise would continue using real-life schools, conferences, and bowls thanks to an agreement with the Collegiate Licensing Company. The video game maker also stated that it would fill in any blanks with individual deals with any schools outside of the CLC's scope. Unfortunately, this did not include the SEC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 conferences, who said they would not be included in any EA Sports title. Electronic Arts' deal with the CLC was not exclusive, but as of this writing no other deals with the CLC for college football games have been officially announced.
In a statement, Cam Weber, EA Sports' general manager of American football, says that the company is evaluating its options for the future.
Here are Cam Weber's comments in full:
Today I am sad to announce that we will not be publishing a new college football game next year, and we are evaluating our plan for the future of the franchise. This is as profoundly disappointing to the people who make this game as I expect it will be for the millions who enjoy playing it each year. I'd like to explain a couple of the factors that brought us to this decision.
We have been stuck in the middle of a dispute between the NCAA and student-athletes who seek compensation for playing college football. Just like companies that broadcast college games and those that provide equipment and apparel, we follow rules that are set by the NCAA – but those rules are being challenged by some student-athletes. For our part, we are working to settle the lawsuits with the student-athletes. Meanwhile, the NCAA and a number of conferences have withdrawn their support of our game. The ongoing legal issues combined with increased questions surrounding schools and conferences have left us in a difficult position – one that challenges our ability to deliver an authentic sports experience, which is the very foundation of EA Sports games.
At EA Sports, college football has always been a labor of love, and it is unfortunate that these business and legal issues have impacted our ability to make next year's game. This franchise has been developed by a team that is deeply committed to the tradition and culture of this sport – that's why fans have always loved it. We are working to retain the talented people who are part of the team by placing them elsewhere within the EA SPORTS organization.
In the meantime, we will continue to be connected and engaged with our fans who are playing EA Sports NCAA Football. Our decision does not affect our commitment to NCAA Football 14 and the consumers who love playing the game.
Our best wishes go out to all the developers at EA Tiburon and employees affected by this situation.
[Source: Electronic Arts]
Our Take:The worst fears I outlined in this opinion piece have apparently come true. I don't know the details behind EA's decision, but obviously the legal battles have put the company – and now gamers – in an impossible situation. I personally don't have a lot of hope that we'll see the company put out a college football game for a long time – and if we do, I'm not sure it'll be in a way that will satisfy fans. Moreover, I don't think it's likely that some other video game publisher or developer will step into the breach at the level previously occupied by EA Sports' franchise.
NCAA players have always been of a different strain than Madden players (and the developers created a product that catered to this), and now there's nowhere they can get their fix. A sad day for sports games. I hope things work out for the developers, some of whom I've had the pleasure to speak with through the years; understanding their love of college football and dedication to the series and its fans.
Email the author Matthew Kato, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.