College football in America has a passionate fanbase, with the most-watched games each season drawing several million people in TV viewership. A large segment of this audience has been clamoring for a new college football video game for years, and according to ESPN, EA Sports seems ready to grant their wish.
Thanks to a legal battle over the unauthorized use of players’ likenesses (which led to a $60 million settlement), EA Sports exited the scene after its 2013 college football release. Now, however, EA Sports has decided to pursue college football without the NCAA – meaning that the new game (which has no release date yet) will not have the real names or likenesses of college athletes.
While that’s unfortunate for diehard fans, current NCAA rules currently prohibit players from selling their rights. If that changes, EA may be able to pivot at some point, but for now the publisher has partnered with collegiate licensing company CLC so that its upcoming game can include schools, uniforms, playbooks, and other collegiate traditions that will make over 100 teams feel realistic even without the real players involved.
With or without the NCAA, bringing back college football is a win-win. Sports gamers are likely to pick up the new title, while Electronic Arts can effectively double dip into its own Madden NFL audience. The Madden franchise has sold over 100 million units in its lifetime and Interpret data points to a significant portion of that player base that would likely be interested in purchasing a college football title as well.
According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, 27% of Madden NFL fans regularly follow college football. Fans of EA’s FIFA games have shown interest as well, and it’s easy to envision that franchise’s Ultimate Team mode coming to a college football game since EA’s already done it with Madden, enabling even greater recurring revenues for the company.