Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
A football man preparing to be transported into the game like Tron.
A football man preparing to be transported into the game like Tron.
Photo: Mike Stobe (Getty Images for EA Sports)

Competition is good in any industry, but it’s rarely as tactile as it is in video games. One game studio popularizes a revolutionary new kind of multiplayer genre, a much bigger game studio comes along and uses its huge amount of resources to build a similar game that it can sell on a free-to-play model that is immensely profitable. Other game studios see this success and try to put their own unique spins on this new genre, all of which are eventually swallowed up by that big game studio to make its game even better. It’s the circle of life, but built in such a way that lions eat gazelles because they’re bigger and because they can afford to steal stripes and super-speed from competing big cats… and also the gazelles really appreciate how much sharper and more high-def the lions get from year to year.

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The problem is that there are some lions who have an exclusive licensing deal with a huge professional sports organization, limiting the gazelles to either that lion or no lion. This metaphor is starting to fall apart, so let’s just get to it: According to Variety, the National Football League has renewed its exclusive licensing deal with Electronic Arts, the video game studio that publishes the Madden series, through 2026. That means, for at least six more years, EA’s Madden will be the one and only place where you can get a realistic “simulation”-style football game with the actual NFL players and teams. No other lions get a taste, as has been the case since EA first made this deal in 2004.

This renewal comes as the Madden series has faced decades or so of criticism for—as some fans see it—cashing in on the license and banking on the knowledge that football fans will continue to buy the game every year whether it’s good or not, simply because it’s the football game. With no other companies able to make their own competing football game (one without the NFL license is only going to go so far, as other studios have realized in the past), and fans continuing to buy it because they have very little choice, critics have pointed out that EA has little incentive to actually try and make Madden better in ways that go beyond minor polishing tweaks or roster updates. That being said, video games are hard to make, especially when there has to be a new Madden every single year, so everybody is a little worse off because of this deal… except for whoever’s getting the money at EA and the NFL. They’re doing great.

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