It looks like Madden 21 will be the most important video game in EA’s history.
The NFL’s 15-year exclusive video game license with EA has officially come to a close.
As a result, 2K has signed a multi-game deal to make its first NFL related game since 2004. The first game of their new deal is set to hit shelves in 2021.
Also reaching shelves in just a few months is Madden 21, which could very well be EA’s most crucial NFL video game yet.
EA has enjoyed plenty of success with the Madden franchise over the last 15 years, but this success was in a market with no competition since 2004.
Now 2K can return to making football games, and even potentially sim football games in the future (the license expires after the 2021 NFL season). This could be a knockout blow to one of the most consistent presences in sports video games.
EA’s best defense? The first shot in a fight to maintain the market it’s held for a decade and a half.
Highs and lows
FRESH: New game modes have helped keep Madden going
Fans of Madden have voiced many concerns over the last few releases, including but not limited to a system reliant on animations out of the player’s control, a re-shifted focus to ultimate team features, and a criticized story mode in place of career.
This disappointment has led to less retail sales, and could directly correlate with the NFL opening the floor for competition.
In the meantime, 2K has developed many popular in-depth features over the years that have revolutionized basketball video games, and these features could mesh very well with an NFL backdrop. It's not hard to see how Blacktop, Neighborhood, and more could be adapted to the gridiron.
AIM HIGH: 2K have moved NBA games on leaps and bounds
2K is probably EA’s biggest threat in the football gaming world, but they aren’t the only threat.
the NFL has been synonymous with professional football in the US
since its inception, much like EA is facing new competition, the NFL
is as well.
The XFL returned in 2020 with a new ruleset, new look, new landscape, and most importantly, a new energy.
The league has received a lot of positive feedback from fans. Even those that don't like the league see it as a chance to watch professional football during the NFL off-season.
This is obviously a great thing for fans of the game, but for fans of video games, the XFL also presents a new opportunity for other developers to step in and make their mark.
FORCE OF NATURE: You can't stop competition forever
While EA still has a hold on NFL simulation-style video games, this license only extends to just after the 2021 season. And with 2K Sports right on their heels, Madden 21 could very well be the last stand of one of gaming’s biggest franchises.
EA can breathe a sigh of relief that 2K Sports’ return to the genre will be a non-sim game. But if 2K can impress, exclusivity on all NFL-related games could be coming their way as early as 2021.
To survive as gaming's football franchise, EA will have to step up and knock Madden 21 out of the park. Either way, fans are in for some great football games in the very near future.