[Update] NCAA Decides Not To Renew EA Sports Contract, EA Responds
Update #2: EA has provided Game Informer with a statement on plans for college football moving forward.
By now, most fans will have heard that EA's licensing agreement with the NCAA is set to expire and that we have agreed to part ways. I'm sure gamers are wondering what this means.
This is simple: EA SPORTS will continue to develop and publish college football games, but we will no longer include the NCAA names and marks. Our relationship with the Collegiate Licensing Company is strong and we are already working on a new game for next generation consoles which will launch next year and feature the college teams, leagues and all the innovation fans expect from EA SPORTS.
We took big creative strides with this year's college game and you'll see much more in the future. We love college football and look forward to making more games for our fans.
Based on this statement, it appears that EA's goal is to stay the course, just without the NCAA name and logo.
Update #1: Brett McMurphy of ESPN has received information from sources indicating that this won't be the end of EA's college football franchise.
EA Sports will still have college football video game beyond 2014, just won't be affiliated w/NCAA— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 17, 2013
We are still awaiting comment directly from EA on the matter.
News has just come in from the NCAA that this year's collegiate football game, NCAA Football 14, will be the last to bear the athletics organization's name and logo. The full statement from the NCAA follows.
The NCAA has made the decision not to enter a new contract for the license of its name and logo for the EA Sports NCAA Football video game. The current contract expires in June 2014, but our timing is based on the need to provide EA notice for future planning. As a result, the NCAA Football 2014 video game will be the last to include the NCAA’s name and logo. We are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games. But given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA.
The NCAA has never licensed the use of current student-athlete names, images or likenesses to EA. The NCAA has no involvement in licenses between EA and former student-athletes. Member colleges and universities license their own trademarks and other intellectual property for the video game. They will have to independently decide whether to continue those business arrangements in the future.
While this doesn't necessarily spell the end of the series, it might be more difficult for EA to secure the individual collegiate licenses without the backing of the overarching NCAA organization. The lawsuit that led to this decision alleges that the NCAA for antitrust violations. Athletes involved in the class-action suit seek compensation for the uses of their likenesses in video games, including NCAA Football. The trial is scheduled to begin in February 2014.
We've reached out to EA for comment and will update should we receive one.
I asked Game Informer managing editor Matt Bertz to provide his opinion on this decision.
The dissolution of the relationship between EA and NCAA could be a huge blow to college football fans. For four years now EA and the NCAA have faced a different type of competition in courtrooms against former NCAA players suing for the usage of their likenesses. Eventually, the governing sports body has determined that this arrangement is not worth the hassle at the agreed upon price that EA pays to publish these games. Because of the high costs associated with fighting complaints of the few (whether they are justified or not is still playing out in court), the stark reality could be that in the future nobody will get to relive the pageantry of college football on the virtual gridiron.