In 2004 EA Sports signed a deal with the NFL making them the only company that could make a football game with the NFL’s teams & players. This power move forever changed the landscape of football video games. We’re going to look at two areas where this has been greatly impacted: the game studios & the consumers.
If we go back as far to the 90’s & early 2000’s it seemed like everyone had a NFL football game out. There was so many options to choose from like Teckmo Super Bowl, NFL Fever, NFL Quarterback Club, Madden NFL2k & the list goes on & on. If you were looking for an arcade type feel you had games like NFL Blitz, NFL Tour, & other games that catered to more of that style. If you wanted more of a sim feel you had Madden, 2k & others.
As the competition dwindled it came down to NFL Gameday, Madden & NFL 2k. Visual Concepts NFL 2k games were fun to play but they weren’t enough to dethrone Madden. 989 Studio’s NFL Gameday was one that directly challenged EA’s Madden but could not shake the juggernaut of all football games. From 2001-2005 sales went from 1.21 million to 5.77 million proving Madden was the game of choice. Visual Concepts continued to put their best foot forward, making a game that would forever be known as “the best football game ever made” with ESPN NFL 2k5. To this day this game is the urban legend of football video games.
The $19.99 price tag was a welcomed selling point compared to the $49.99 & eventually $29.99 price tag Madden had. Many people, myself included, brought ESPN Nfl 2k5 because of the price & earlier release date, thinking that it would hold them over until Madden was released. But for many, Madden never was purchased. ESPN NFL2k5 was a hit! It had many features that Madden is still trying to implement today.
One EA developer was quoted as saying “It scared the hell out of us” speaking about Visual Concepts move with ESPN NFL 2k5. Knowing that, EA made a power move & shut down the competition by getting the exclusive rights to NFL trademarks. This ended all previous debates as to who makes the best football game, shaking the industry til this day. This was not just affecting game developers but also us the consumer. How so?
Well, gone are the days when you had freedom of choice in which football game you would like to play. Now we have to settle for only one option and that is EA’s Madden. There may have been features we loved in other football games that Madden didn’t have, but now we have no choice. Football fans would find it very difficult to get excited to play a football game without the real players & teams we all know & love. So we are left with one option: Madden.
To show how the exclusive rights deal has affected Madden, from ’05 to ’08 sales went from 5.77 million copies down to 3.61 million. This move by EA is still to this day being met with outrage as they recently renewed their licensing deal with the NFL for “a few more years”. Being the only football game out you would think EA would produce the best football game out year after year but that hasn’t always been the case. Some even feel that because there is no competition, EA has become lazy. For example some features that have been in previous Madden games have been taken out only to be brought back in as a new feature in a future Madden game. Some even feel that EA doesn’t have to put forth much effort because it’s the only football game out & if people want to play a football game with their favorite teams then they will have to buy Madden regardless.
People are highly critical of Madden & because it’s the only football game out, that’s the way it should be. With no competition in the football video game market, EA has put themselves in line to receive either praise or harsh criticism to make a football game that everyone will enjoy. Each year the NBA 2k series raises the bar with improved gameplay & features to the point where they have killed the competition & they have done this without signing an exclusive license deal. Hopefully one day the NFL will end this exclusive rights deal & give avid football gamers freedom & a variety of football games to choose from. Then the competition will return to make developers produce better, more enjoyable games.