EA will not be releasing a game in its NCAA Football series in 2014, stating that it is "evaluating our plan for the future of the franchise." The decision comes from a long and difficult legal battle between the NCAA and student athletes who have begun demanding compensation for their efforts.
General Manager of American football at EA Sports took to EA's blog The Beat, to explain the situation.
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. 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. I'd like to explain a couple of the factors that brought us to this decision.
We have been stuck in the middle of a dispute between the NCAA and student-athletes who seek compensation for playing college football. Just like companies that broadcast college games and those that provide equipment and apparel, we follow rules that are set by the NCAA – but those rules are being challenged by some student-athletes. For our part, we are working to settle the lawsuits with the student-athletes. Meanwhile, the NCAA and a number of conferences have withdrawn their support of our game.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.
At EA SPORTS, college football has always been a labor of love, and it is unfortunate that these business and legal issues have impacted our ability to make next year's game.
Those who don't follow the sports world might not know the details of the lawsuit, but the basic idea is that students are doing all the hard work of playing the sports, taking all the risks of injury, and giving up the rights to use their likeness in any other realms of entertainment like music and film. They believe more compensation is required for such efforts, including their likenesses used in video games.
In the meantime, the NCAA makes all the money off of these students, but the misconception is that all that money is pocketed by greedy men. Rather, the organization uses it to make broadcasting contracts, nationwide tournaments, video game licenses and a competitive student atmosphere to get these kids noticed and possibly a professional job playing sports.
It's a tough call to decide which side to fall on. Both sides have great arguments and neither is a clear cut good guy either, but EA has clearly decided they are tired of being stuck in the middle. It deserves a hand for making the tough call and backing out of this delicate situation despite the risks of breaking a franchise that has been up and running for twenty years.
College football fans can be just as passionate towards the sport as professional football fans, if not more so. More rivalries, more teams, each game holding more weight than other sports, an innocence to watching student athletes play without a paycheck, for now at least. NCAA Football might not share the sales figures that Madden has, but EA Sports is bound to take a hit from this.
This year's release on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, NCAA Football 14, could be the last the franchise sees.