On Tuesday morning, it was announced that the NFL and 2K have once again forged a partnership that will span multiple years for the purpose of producing future video games.
Unfortunately for those who really, really want the old 2K back (me), the new titles "will be non-simulation football game experiences." But this news is certainly still notable as it represents 2K getting back into the football business and also the NFL expanding its gaming properties (so, going back to better times in both cases there).
For those perhaps too young to remember, NFL 2K was at one time a first-rate gaming franchise that released new titles over six consecutive falls from 1999 to 2004. Speaking with sincerity for what is perhaps the first time in my life, I can say that 2K and 2K1 alone made my Dreamcast worthwhile. But then I jumped ship. Live and learn.
2K was a strong competitor to Madden, and even if you preferred EA's offering, 2K's very existence still brought out the best in both of those franchises. In fact, in 2K's final year with an NFL deal it sold ESPN NFL 2K5 for $19.99. An EA developer recalled that price "scared the hell out of us." Madden NFL 2005 countered with a price tag of $29.95.
That was actually part of 2K's problem.
After the release of ESPN NFL 2K5, EA signed an exclusivity deal with the NFL that made them the sole purveyor of video games that can use real NFL teams and players. A few years after that, 2K put out a spiritual successor to the series, called All-Pro Football 2K8. That game was solid, but you just can't have the same pull with the masses without active players and teams.
As for this most recent announcement, future titles, developers, and release dates are set to be revealed at a later date. But the "projects" are said to be "in early development." According to a press release, 2K is on track to begin releasing the games starting in 2021.
“The NFL is one of the most successful sports brands in the world, known for creating incredible entertainment for fans,” said 2K's President, David Ismailer. “We’re thrilled to be back in business with the NFL in a partnership that will span multiple video games centered on fun, approachable and social experiences. It’s exciting to bring together 2K’s expertise in creating award-winning sports games with the NFL’s renowned status as a world-class entertainment and sports organization.”
Joe Ruggiero, the NFL's Vice President of Consumer Products, sounded equally optimistic about the deal.
"Expanding the NFL's presence in the world of gaming has become a focus for the league as we look to grow the next generation of our fan base and reviving our partnership with 2K was a natural step in that effort," he said. "2K is a worldwide leader in sports video games, with a proven track record of creating best-in-class and award-winning games and we look forward to sharing more about the projects we are working on with them in the future."
Following 2K's announcement, EA released a statement on the status of its partnership with the NFL and NFLPA.
"EA SPORTS is the exclusive publisher of NFL simulation games, and our partnership with the NFL and NFLPA remains unchanged," a rep said. "Our agreements have always allowed for non-exclusive development of non-simulation games on various platforms. Our commitment to NFL fans, which spans almost 30 years, has never been stronger, and we’re having our biggest year yet. Madden NFL 20 is the most successful game ever in the franchise, and new modes like Superstar KO and our Madden NFL esports broadcasts are growing the fan base. We’ll be building on that momentum with more new and different experiences, on more platforms and with new ways to play, in the years to come."
At the moment, this would appear to be very positive news for the future of video game football. After all, even if it's not a sim, there's still no negative to 2K getting back into video game football. Sounds good.
Now let's talk about the NCAA.