"GAME OVER": EA Sports' NCAA Football Series Terminated
September 27th, 2013
September 27th, 2013
Greed strikes again, this time against one of the favorite pastimes of college football fans. Yesterday, Electronic Arts (EA) Sports reached a settlement with former student-athletes, effectively shutting down its college sports video game department, most notably the beloved NCAA Football series. The former players, spearheaded by former quarterback Sam Keller and former basketball player Ed O’Bannon, charged EA Sports with using their likeness without any compensation. EA never used their names in the video games, but did include the correct jersey number, height, weight, appearance, skill set, and hometown. Surely, EA was licensed with the NCAA, but the problem also relates to the NCAA's treatment of amateurism and compensation with its student athletes.
The older generation may be shrugging (or hitting the ‘back button’): “who cares, it’s just a video game.” But to us college football diehards, this was THEE video game. Anyone born from the early 1980s on had a college football game in their childhood. It all started with ‘Bill Walsh College Football’ in 1992 with just 24 teams to pick from on the grainy NES. Soon all Division 1 teams entered the game, and some extra features emerged, such as ‘create-a-player’ and ‘dynasty mode.’ Fast forward to 2013 and we have high-definition graphics, perfect depictions of stadiums and traditions, even some extremely detailed recruiting in the dynasty mode. Further, NCAA Football has become an online community for dedicated gamers – players now have the capability to start an online league in which they play and recruit against each other. To both the intense gamer and the casual football fan, the 2nd Tuesday in July has turned into a quasi-holiday: Release Day. Midnight tournaments sprout up all around the country at local stores – usually with a free copy for the winner, but always a year of bragging rights.
When the general public thinks about sports video games (especially a football game), the immediate image is “Madden.” To the college sports fan, this series was our Madden. This was the hobby that helped ease the transition from March Madness and Spring Football to Kickoff Weekend in September. Was there anything better than leading your favorite team to an undefeated season, raising the optimism to unreachable heights for the upcoming, real-life season? This was the go-to video game to challenge a friend regardless of occasion. This was also the game that you admittedly got way too invested in – my “Dynasty” with my created Vermont football team went a good seven seasons (do my 4 National Championships throw me in the Bryant-Hayes-Osborne-Bowden discussion?)
I have a feeling that a majority of Division 1 Football players actually looked forward to playing the new game and playing “as themselves.” Who wouldn’t? It’s the reason EA installed the ‘create-a-player’ feature, so that everyone could experience it. The few Division 1 players that I follow on Twitter all seem to enjoy using their teams in the game (and love bragging to each other about their exaggerated stats or skill attributes). Out of hundreds of thousands of former players – all it took was two. Thanks to Keller and O’Bannon putting this in motion, the NCAA Football series is dead. EA now has the unfortunate task of tracking down 200,000 to 300,000 former players to pay them a cash settlement. Even worse is the termination of a beloved series.
Hold on to that latest copy of NCAA Football 14, as it looks like the last one ever to be produced. Annual roster updates, here we come!