College football will once again be a virtual pastime.
Almost seven and a half years after last publishing a college football video game — NCAA FootbalL 14, covered by Michigan’s Denard Robinson — EA Sports announced on Tuesday morning that it will once again publish a college football video game.
For those who never stopped believing...#EASPORTSCollegeFootball pic.twitter.com/2vDUYnbXEJ— EA SPORTS (@EASPORTS) February 2, 2021
That the name and mark of the game — College Football, apparently — will differ from the old NCAA Football name and mark was to be expected, as many things have changed since the 2013 release of NCAA Football 14.
Multiple lawsuits and legislative changes have both made it difficult for the NCAA’s previous model preventing athlete compensation to work with the previous iteration of NCAA Football in which players masqueraded as nameless avatars, QB No. 15 or CB No. 1, with suspiciously correct measurements; a broader shift toward the compensation of college athletes for use of their name, image, and likeness has made it much more conceivable that players might appear by name — and even face — in a College Football game, although that does not currently appear to be EA Sports’s plan.
Rather, it’s more likely that College Football will feature the institutional marks — those of schools, conferences, bowl games, and the College Football Playoff — of the college football experience that have made their way into Madden NFL in recent years, as well, with the games that are part of the College Football Playoff playing into the Face of the Franchise single-player mode that has appeared in Madden NFL 20 and 21.
The Washington Post reports that EA has struck a robust deal with the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) — now the licensing division of sports marketing giant Learfield IMG College — that should cover the vast majority of college football’s Football Bowl Subdivision.
The deal between EA Sports and CLC includes licenses for more than 100 schools in the FBS subdivision, including logos, stadiums, mascots and fight songs, as well as licenses around the College Football Playoff. EA intends to pursue additional licensing agreements with the remaining members of the FBS, according to Weber. “It’s up to each individual schools to make that decision, but we are very optimistic,” Weber said.
Expecting legends of the college game to appear might be a safer bet, though. The rise of live-services models in games, specifically the Ultimate Team mode in various EA Sports franchises, has made for a deeper fantasy experience that has simultaneously diverted some resources from some of the standards of the genre, something that Madden NFL diehards have been frustrated with for years — but something that might delight college football fans, who could conceivably pair Tim Tebow with Kyle Pitts or build an all-time Florida Gators roster in a College Football Ultimate Team.
And thanks to the release of so-called sixth generation consoles in 2020 — the Xbox Series X and S and the PlayStation 5 — a College Football development team might be able to start a as close to from scratch on their game as any new and major sports game ever will, potentially avoiding many of the problems that come with iterative game development and have plagued its annually-released sports series.
But the flip side of that potential is the likely long wait for a release. While a College Football 22 released in summer or early fall 2021 might be possible if it is built on the chassis of the existing Madden NFL engine, a from-the-floor-up version of such a game is almost certain to take until 2022 or later to be ready for release.
For now, EA Sports hasn’t released any details on a timeline for College Football to make its triumphant return to our lives, with initial comments on development suggesting that a 2021 release is not likely.
For today, of course, knowing that it’s coming at all is plenty sweet.