Thursday, September 26, 2013

NCAA: It's Over

This happened today:
Electronic Arts has canceled its college football game, originally set to publish in 2014. EA Sports GM of American Football Cam Weber wrote in an EA blog that the publisher is "evaluating our plan for the future of the franchise." 

The news follows the NCAA's decision to not renew its licensing partnership with EA Sports in July, leading the publisher to move forward in a three-year deal with the Collegiate Licensing Company to create college football games without the NCAA names and marks. EA Sports' last published game in the series was NCAA Football 14.

Well, let's look at what happened here.

1. A shitty football game isn't getting released next year. 
There's no argument here: NCAA is a poor product. It's been a poor product for years. Tiburon is where quality goes to die. Even when the series had a great new feature (Campus Legend mode), it would get introduced one year, then ignored for the next five. Campus Legend was a way to elevate the game in so many ways, but once it was in as a feature, it was never improved.

It's not sexy to say "Our new feature this year is fixing all the crap that's been broken for a decade." That's what they'd have to do to fix this game, because I guarantee you that EA has a list of literally hundreds of bugs in a database somewhere that aren't considered important enough to fix.

Madden? Same deal.

EA has two series that have been outstanding for a long time: NHL and FIFA. They're both developed by EA Canada. Madden and NCAA are both developed by Tiburon. EA Canada has demonstrated that they're capable of making a first-class sports game. Tiburon has not.

Why no one at EA ever seems to notice this is beyond me.

2. EA is starting to prune franchises.
Licensing costs are eating EA alive. They're going to do everything they can to cut licensing costs, and there may be some franchises that are discontinued--or continued without licensing--in order to address spiraling costs. This was a convenient opportunity for EA to jettison a huge pain in the ass.

Tiger Woods is also vulnerable, and as much as I hate to say it, NHL (our favorite sports franchise) may be vulnerable, too. There are two huge moneymakers here, and they're Madden and FIFA. Those are the only franchises that are safe.

3. EA settled the player likeness lawsuit.
This was inevitable, because EAs attempts at a defense in this case were knee-slapping hilarious. It is inconceivable that they could have won this lawsuit. So they settled, the terms were confidential, and we'll probably never find out what happened here. Well, except that EA was in an untenable position and was wise to settle.

4. EA Sports is wheezing.
There really seem to be some cracks in the facade. NCAA Basketball is dead. NCAA Football is dead. No baseball game. Other franchises look vulnerable.

They have the UFC bloodsport simulator, and that may prove to be very successful. The days of riding high on a wave of team sports, though, may be over.

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