For years, fans of football video games could buy the Madden version or the college version (or both). More than seven years after the last version of the EA Sports college football game was released, EA Sports has announced that the game is returning.
Via Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com, the game as initially envisioned won’t have actual names, images, and likenesses of players. That could change, based on the status of legislation and rules aimed at allowing college football players to receive marketing compensation.
“We’ll just keep tabs on everything as it develops and we’ll be ready,” EA Sports vice president and general manager Daryl Holt told Rothstein. “That won’t be a problem for us. But it’s really, that’s not an answer for us right now to decide. We’re as much passengers as anyone else. . . . So we make sure we deliver what our college football game players would want in a game. And that starts with just a very immersive experience and there’s lots of things we can do to bring the true college game play and game day to the virtual world.”
EA Sports stopped making the game due to the name, image, and likeness issue, which culminated in a $60 million settlement of a federal class action by the NCAA and EA in 2015.
Holt told Rothstein that there’s no specific date for a return of the game, but that it won’t return later this year. If it returns without licensing the names, images, and likenesses of players, it will be important for EA Sports to deliberately avoid the creation of players who may look or perform like their potential human counterparts.
Obviously, having the actual players in the game will make the product more valuable. Having deals with former players (like the Madden Ultimate Team does) will help the cause, too.
It could be that EA Sports has returned to the space fully intending to embrace the looming ability to pay players for their names, images, and likenesses. Perhaps the knowledge that EA Sports is ready to go with a college football game will help get the appropriate laws and rules in place, so that everyone — including the players — can receive fair compensation for a product that surely will generate millions of dollars.