In 2005 publisher Electronic Arts made an unfortunate bit of video game history when it entered a deal with the NFL to become its exclusive licensor of simulation football games. This meant only EA could release an accurate football game, and competing titles from Sega and Take-Two had to shut down permanently.
The results since have been what you’d expect. Under the thumb of competition, the Madden series was forced to innovate and keep its critical reviews sparkling. Now that they’ve been the only game in town for fifteen years, they’ve grown fat and lazy. The Madden series still releases one new game every year, but there is barely any difference between one and the next, aside from updated rosters and even more microtransaction gimmicks.
The exclusivity deal was running out, though, and that fact gave sports players a little hope — until it was smashed today. EA and the NFL just announced a renewal of their deal that takes Madden through the next six years. And there’s no guarantee that in 2026 they won’t just renew the deal again.
But it’s not completely hopeless…assuming you’re open to a broader interpretation of a football game. Back in March Take-Two (former makers of the NFL 2K series that competed with Madden) announced their own deal with the NFL that allows for games not technically covered under the EA contract. The deal with EA only applies to “simulation” version of the NFL, meaning a more outlandish, arcade-style football experience can be made by anyone.
Is that enough? If not, this is just the way it has to be until the US Supreme Count cares enough about NFL video games to intervene. Someone send RBG a copy…