Has EA Ruined Sports Video Games?
Like most every American, I love football. I especially love college football. So, when EA announced there would be no more NCAA Football games, I was upset. On the second Tuesday of July for the past 10 years I've stood in line, in the humid night air to buy NCAA Football at midnight...except this year. With dashed hopes of seeing a Next-Gen NCAA game, I knew it would be a long, dry summer for new games. But all this got me thinking, maybe it's time for EA to drop exclusive rights to games for almost every major sport. The past few years, most of their sports titles have been mediocre at best, with Fifa and NHL being the exception.
This travesty all started in 2004 when EA felt threatened by Take-Two's NFL 2k5. Not only was it a leaps and bounds improvement over Madden 04 with better gameplay and presentation, it was also budget priced at $19.99. This was half of what EA was selling Madden for at $49.99. With better reviews and pricing, EA felt threatened and worked out a deal with the NFL to lock up exclusive rights to produce NFL titles. This also prompted EA to nab up exclusive rights to NCAA, AFL and ESPN to totally block 2k from doing any kind of football game. 2k did release one football title in 2007, All-Pro Football, to good reviews, but the game lacked name branding because of the absence of NFL licensing.
With EA stopping anyone from making football video games but them, the company went on a spending spree: locking up Fifa, NASCAR, NHL and the PGA. The NBA refused and EA lost the rights for MLB to 2k. Over all, what EA had done was stop competition. Rather than take it on the chin that someone else had made a better game, they went out and spent tens of millions of dollars so no one else could make major sports games. As a result, the games and the gamers, have suffered. Their NASCAR games were so bad they dropped the license in 2009. EA's Tiger Woods PGA games have had lukewarm reviews over the past few years, prompting EA to drop Tiger Woods. Adding insult to injury, they have done nothing with Arena League Football since 2006. The company still releases the NBA Live series, but it has not been anywhere near the quality of the 2K series. The only two games that have done well, other than Madden, is Fifa, which is the best selling sports game in the world, and the NHL series.
One thing that makes for better video games is competition. Look at the Battlefield series and the Call of Duty series. Each year the two go head-to-head to win over reviewers and gamers; each year making a better, more elaborate game than the last. Competition used to be this way with sports titles. But have recent lawsuits with EA over the NCAA games soured the NCAA to video games? Many collegiate players have expressed their disappointment that there will be no new game in the foreseeable future and so have many gamers out there, including me. I would love to see 2K bring out an NCAA football game next year or a new NFL series. But, we all know it will not happen anytime soon.
Has EA ruined the state of sports video games with all the exclusive contracts? Have the recent NCAA lawsuits and loss of big name star power hurt sports games as a whole? Only time will tell, but with no one else out there to compete with, EA has the freedom to put out whatever game they want out there, regardless of it is good or not. The only tangible EA will listen to is money. If so many people out there are tired of Madden football, then don't buy it. If enough people don't buy it, EA would have to take notice and rethink their strategy. Madden sales have slowly declined over the past few years. What will be the tell of the tape is sales this year, especially on Next-Gen. If sales drop again, it could make the NFL look to not renewing the license. This is all just speculation, but we all know that money talks.