EA Sports’ college football video game franchise is set for a return.
The gaming company teased the reboot of its NCAA Football franchise on social media Tuesday. And an executive for the company confirmed to ESPN that the series would restart production.
— EA SPORTS (@EASPORTS) February 2, 2021
That comeback, however, won’t come until 2022 at the earliest. The game will be branded as EA Sports College Football and will be produced for the next generation PlayStation and XBox consoles. From ESPN:
"As we look for the momentum that we're building on in sports, it all starts with the passion of our fans and the opportunities of what they are interested in," [EA Sports vice president Daryl] Holt said. "I don't think a visit where I go outside wearing a piece of EA Sports branded apparel, that someone doesn't go, 'Hey, when is college football coming back?' "
It will — at some point. Holt said there is not a date on when the game will return or even a date where the return will be announced other than it won't be coming back for this year.
O’Bannon suit helped end previous NCAA franchises
The game could be impacted by the current name and image reform underway throughout college sports. The last NCAA Football game was NCAA 14 from the 2013 season and the players in the game or any previous iterations were not compensated for their likenesses because they didn’t retain their own image rights under NCAA rules.
The famous Ed O’Bannon suit resulted from that lack of compensation in both EA Sports’ basketball and football games. The company ultimately settled with college players who appeared in the games for $40 million.
That compensation structure for NCAA athletes will be different under this iteration of the EA Sports game. The NCAA is slowly figuring out rules for how college athletes can be compensated for their name and image rights.
No real-life players in the game?
But that NIL reform may not matter at all for the new college football game. Holt told ESPN that the NIL reform proceedings won’t impact the game’s development and the company told the Washington Post the game isn’t set at the moment to be based on real-life players, though the company said in a press release that it was “continuing to watch [NIL] developments closely.”
EA Sports currently does not plan for the new college football game to feature the names, images or likenesses of existing college players and has struck a licensing deal with a large number of college football programs through a new deal with CLC. In essence, that deal sidesteps the NCAA, which was also dropped from the game’s name in favor of the broader “College Football” moniker.
EA Sports told the Post that it currently doesn’t have any licensing rights from the NCAA, meaning that the governing body is not set to make any money off the new game.
As a work-around to NCAA rules — and the impetus for the class-action suit — players weren’t named in the original NCAA Football and basketball games though their height, weights and abilities closely corresponded to their real-life attributes.
For example, the Clemson QB in a hypothetical NCAA game based on the 2020 season would be QB #16 and 6-5 with a 99 rating and stellar accuracy and throw power numbers just like the actual Trevor Lawrence. The lack of names meant that hardcore NCAA Football users would annually join forces to give every player in the game his actual name so gamers could play with accurately-named rosters.
It’s unclear how much control users will have over modifications to the rosters in the new game.
A new college football game will also be the first college football game to feature the College Football Playoff. The 2013 season was the final year of the BCS and there was no option to expand the BCS into a four-team playoff as the NCAA Football 14 dynasty mode progressed.
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