Game Over: EA pulls plug on college football video game

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Perhaps destined for this decision, Electronic Arts has announced the cancellation of the popular NCAA Football video game franchise for the upcoming year. The video game giant is caught in the middle of an ongoing legal dispute concerning the NCAA and former college players and had already lost the license to use the NCAA brand as well as multiple conferences and a couple of schools. In this case, the writing was on the wall.

The announcement gamers have been dreading was delivered Thursday afternoon vie a press release by Cam Weber, GM of American Football at EA Sports.

“Today I am sad to announce that we will not be publishing a new college football game next year, and we are evaluating our plan for the future of the franchise,” Weber said. “This is as profoundly disappointing to the people who make this game as I expect it will be for the millions who enjoy playing it each year.”

Weber cites the dispute between players and the NCAA over player likenesses, one in which EA has been criticized for using without any form of compensation for players represented in the game aside from the annual cover athlete. In addition, Weber says

“For our part, we are working to settle the lawsuits with the student-athletes,” Weber said. “Meanwhile, the NCAA and a number of conferences have withdrawn their support of our game. The ongoing legal issues combined with increased questions surrounding schools and conferences have left us in a difficult position – one that challenges our ability to deliver an authentic sports experience, which is the very foundation of EA SPORTS games.”

The production team that works on the video game will be placed elsewhere under the EA Sports division of Electronic Arts, but there will be no college football-themed video game released next summer. The college football franchise has been released every year dating back to 1993 on the Super Nintendo and SEGA Genesis. When introduced, the game used Bill Walsh to headline the franchise and was a bit ahead of its time. The game featured only a relatively small number of teams that resembled actual college teams but included a playoff system long before the adoption of the actual College Football Playoff. Walsh’s namesake was used to sell the franchise in similar fashion to John Madden and the NFL franchise, but the franchise was soon named College Football USA before switching to NCAA Football.

EA Sports has long been the only producer of a college football game. 2k Sports had two college football titles released in 2001 and 2002, but the company has slowly been phased out by EA Sports in the sports video game market. Will we eventually see another college football game released on our video game consoles? Probably. This is probably not a long-term or permanent solution, but until the NCAA, conferences, schools and players all start playing under a system that allows for players to be compensated we have probably seen the last college football game for a while. The demand will always be there as well as the target audience, but off-field legalities must be sorted out first.

UPDATE (5:43 p.m.): Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com reports EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Co. have settled a number of lawsuits with as many as 100,000 current and former players.

Photo credit: EA Sports