'The loss of NCAA was a benefit for Madden,' says EA. But will the college football franchise ever return?
Electronic Arts isn't completely ready to call it quits on its NCAA Football series -- despite not releasing a new installment this year -- but until the courts can settle this whole ordeal regarding player athletes getting paid, then the franchise will pretty much remain in limbo. While EA describes it as a "huge loss of the studio," the company also admits it's been an overall benefit for the Madden NFL franchise -- and it's evident in the upcoming Madden NFL 15.
"The effect on us, obviously, was a huge loss of the studio and a lot of people lost their jobs which was tough. Given the circumstances that NCAA just shipped one of the best games in franchise history in NCAA 14 was certainly sad," Madden creative director Rex Dickson told me when asked about the status of NCAA Football and if we can ever expect a new one in the future.
"But Madden has taken the best of the best from the NCAA dev team and that has made this team that much stronger," he added. "So the loss of NCAA did have a net benefit, and that is that Madden is a much stronger dev team and a much stronger game for it this year."
I don't know about you, but the news of no NCAA game this year certainly hit me and my friends hard. As die-hard college football fans, we'd gather around every year and start up a multiplayer dynasty -- usually one in which I would win the National Championship every year (sorry you'll never hoist the trophy, Cox and Smith).
While I'm saddened that we won't be able to do that this year, Dickson is correct in that Madden has greatly benefited from adding members of the NCAA dev team. The pro football series makes tremendous strides this year in Madden NFL 15 with a completely revamped defense and a total rehaul of the game's presentation. Madden NFL 15 will include a pre-game and halftime show, a more authentic "NFL style" broadcast inspired by NFL Films, more than 80 hours of new game commentary, and "real" NFL jumbotrons. And remember, this is all in addition to updated gameplay with a specific focus on defense. Though we've only had limited hands-on time with the game at E3, the result seems to be a much improved gameplay experience.
As for the possibility of the NCAA Football series making a comeback in the future, Dickson says EA is ready and waiting.
"Obviously it was a good business for us," he said. "We want it back. There's people here who definitely want to work on it again and are passionate about it.
"But I think what needs to happen is we have to sit and wait what happens with the NCAA," he continued. "Who knows how high this thing goes with athletes getting paid, it could go to the supreme court. Once all that legal stuff gets figured out, we will be the first ones at the door waiting to build that game again."
The Ed-O'Bannon-NCAA trial, which will determine whether college athletes will get paid for the commercial uses of their names, images and likenesses, is currently underway so hopefully we'll get an answer soon. Depending on how all of this plays out, there's a lot to be settled, including the NCAA not renewing its contract with EA Sports and the various football conferences unwilling to lend their incenses for the game. It's a messy situation that will hopefully get cleared up soon because I want me a college football game. In the meantime, it looks like Madden will have to fill the void.