In the last few days, there was a relatively surprising announcement the NFL has done its first deal with 2K Sports in more than a decade.
EA Sports has had exclusive rights to the NFL for that time and some have felt that has led to some complacency.
The announcement itself is interesting as it states that EA Sports continue to hold exclusive rights to ‘simulation’ games. Reading between lines, this means that Madden 21 and beyond should be safe.
But there is an interesting trend in the sports market which means there could be more to this than meets the eye.
Rise of 'street' sports gaming
There has been a sharp rise in different types of more arcade-style sports games in recent years – actually led by EA themselves.
HIT THE STREETS: Volta was a return to non-traditional games for EA
Most noticeable in FIFA where they introduced Voltaas part of FIFA 20. This pitched known players alongside player-made characters in a street environment for smaller games with fun tricks and arcade-style gameplay. The idea is to have more fun, less reality.
Even in Madden 20, we have the new game mode Superstar KO which is along a similar thread.
Other sports games like NBA Live and NBA 2K have introduced the ability to take your character to ‘street’ based environments for slightly different gameplay. Another element of FIFA and Madden is their ‘no rules’ or ‘house rules’ games online and in FUT/MUT.
NOT BAD: NFL Street got decent reviews from the critics
Whilst EA Sports might not be threatened by the announcement,
they will definitely be annoyed as they have been leading the charge in that direction.
EA Sports history
EA Sports have actually been making games like this on and off for a while. Both NFL Street and FIFA Street were titles released in the mid-2000s but didn’t have the best commercial success. They were fun but not seen as worth the price tag of buying the full game.
They tried again a few years later with the revival of NFL Blitz and NBA Jam titles, both of which faired a similar end result.
NFL Street lasted a few titles before being axed and generally got some decent reviews. It was good fun and didn't take itself seriously prompting some family battles that meant you didn't need to be super talented to have a chance of winning.
Seeing your favorite players amped up and bouncing off walls was a nice change of pace from competitive play in Madden.
How does this affect Madden 21?
Whilst the previous attempts at bringing arcade fun to
sports simulation games proved to be unsuccessful, there are signs that there
FUT and MUT have proved that people do want some game modes to disconnect from reality, it just seems that it is the entire game isn’t value for money.
We have seen this manifest itself as being in-game modes like we saw with Superstar KO in Madden 20. But this in itself still played like Madden, it just had a slight twist on the rules to make quicker games.
2K are seeing this and have responded in their top-class NBA title. Their moves to the NFL arena will be a little harder as they won’t have the main simulation part of a game due to EA Sports exclusive deal.
So, this is where EA Sports will likely get aggressive in competition. If they can match something that 2K is trying to do and roll it into the existing Madden 21 game, then 2k won’t stand a chance.
FIRST STEP: Superstar KO was different rules, but it was still Madden to play
I would fully expect a single-player mode in Madden 21that incorporates some kind of ‘street-ball’ arcade experience. But they haven’t got long to make it given launch is usually mid-August.
Whichever developer you support, competition isn’t always a
bad thing and maybe this is the motivation EA Sports needs to invest more in
updating their franchises.