So EA has done it again. It wasn’t good enough that they had to pick up an exclusive agreement with the NFL and NFLPA. This time they decide to purchase the license that signified one product that gave Madden a big run for their money. EA’s purchase of the ESPN license for 15 years has garnered a lot of outrage in the gaming community.
Last year, SEGA made great strides and produced arguably a superior product in ESPN NFL 2K5
. And it cost more than half the price of EA’s Madden 2005
offering. Offering incredible graphics, great game play, and top notch presentation ESPN NFL 2K5
garnered plenty of attention and great reviews. The NFL 2K series has always been pretty good dating back to the Dreamcast version. Each successive year added features and improvements that made it competitive with Madden
. It wasn’t until last year with the new features and price drop that it really received the attention it deserved.
Goodbye, ESPN NFL series....we'll miss you..
On December 16, 2004 the first bomb was dropped when EA announced that they have signed a five year exclusive agreement with the NFL and NFLPA. It was disappointing, but I was optimistic. SEGA could still do football games and we’d go back to the days of Front Page Sports Football
(pre-NFL license) and TV Sports Football
where we had fake players and teams but the community provided files with real players names and stats to use in your own league. It was a little awkward but it worked. SEGA could still make games with the great ESPN presentation and record voices saying last names, like how NCAA Football
does when you enter in a student’s name. It could work, I thought. That is until the next major EA event happened.
Almost exactly a month later on January 17, 2004 the bomb dropped that EA and ESPN has signed a 15 year deal. 15 years is a lifetime in the world of games and this news was just another blow to SEGA and the sports gaming community. To be honest, it was probably inevitable. Seeing EA sports games on ESPN highlights didn’t seem right. Well now, that’s a moot point as EA and ESPN are in bed together for a very long time.
I really cannot see any good coming out of this deal. It just makes EA look like a big bully trying to buy up all the competition because they just didn’t want to try to compete. It’s hard not to deduce that EA saw SEGA’s ESPN line starting to really tap into their console football business and decided that the best action to take is to do everything they can to make it next to impossible for a competitor to create an NFL football game that would compete on a level playing field. Without anyone to compete with, would you try and improve your product immensely knowing that there’s nothing else out there? What’s to prevent EA from adding something trivial such as new cheerleader dances, updated rosters, and slapping $60 on it for next year? Or charging for online leagues and play now knowing that there aren’t free alternatives? The PR for EA will say they did this to provide the best product out there and to give football fans what they want but can we really believe that now?
Say hello to your only choice for atleast five years....
Message boards are calling EA the Microsoft of games and calls for boycotting their products are springing up everywhere. In reality though, the average consumer probably doesn’t care and might even be happy that EA is getting the ESPN license. When you’re brought up on EA as the best sports games out there, it’s hard to try something else.
I really hope that MLB, NHL, and the NBA resist the urge to sign these exclusive deals with EA. I did remember reading that the NBA has already refused an exclusive aggreement. Nothing’s as big as the football franchise but the other three major sports can make a difference. Charles Husemann has stated how much better the SEGA hockey game is and I enjoy the ESPN NFL 2K5
game a lot more than the mediocre NBA Live 2005
offering. Let’s hope the three see that competition breeds better games and that signing an exclusive agreement can hinder their product’s quality.
With E3 coming up, it’ll be interesting to see EA's booth. I bet they’ll be pushing the ESPN license like crazy now and we’ll be seeing the logo plastered everywhere in their sports area. Personally, I usually peruse the booth to check out and report on the latest NCAA Football
and NBA Live
series. This year I’ll probably just walk by the booth to go to my next appointment.
So now we are stuck with five years (or more should the NFL re-up with EA) of NFL football games and 15 years of ESPN presentation and materials ONLY from EA. If there’s anyone excited about this prospect please feel free to contact me and let me know your reasons. In a recent Fact or Faction
, neither Charlie, Charles, or I thought this was great news. I don’t know the specifics of the college football license but maybe SEGA can try to move into that area. I guess we’ll see in the near future what will become of Visual Concepts. I feel really bad for those guys. I really do. But things don’t look too good right now. Oh well, back to taking the Browns to the Super Bowl in ESPN NFL 2K5