According to ESPN, Madden will remain the sole NFL licensed football game for at least the next 6 years, as Electronic Arts managed to secure a deal with NFL Owners, and the NFL Players association that gives them sole ownership of the license until 2026.
Because the NFL had given 2K license to make Football non-simulation games In March, many wondered if it was a taste of things to come and whether we would eventually have a return to the days when Madden wasn’t the only option on the market for NFL aficionados.
Competition is good, it brings about innovation, and Madden has been alone for far too long on the market. Some of the older players will remember that the 90’s were filled with different licensed Football franchises.
While Madden remained the highest selling multiplatform franchise during that period, it had competition in form of exclusive NFL simulations on both the PlayStation and the Nintendo 64 in the form of 989’s NFL Gameday, and Acclaims NFL Quarterback Club games.
Other games such as Midway’s arcade focused NFL Blitz rose to prominence during the later part of that decade. EA maintained control of sales, and of critical ratings with its Madden franchise until a real contender finally appeared in the form of 2K’s (Then known as Sega’s Visual Concepts) NFL 2k which debuted in 1999 as a Dreamcast launch exclusive title.
For the first time in history Madden was no longer the standard bearer for Football simulation in the world, and the series would not recover its critical status as NFL Football’s premier simulation until it made its debut on the more powerful PS2 with Madden 2001.
Because the Dreamcast had a small user base, EA was not worried about NFL2k’s consistent innovations in the gameplay and simulation fronts until Sega went out of business as a hardware manufacturer, and turned into a 3rd party multi-platform developer in 2002.
NFL 2K3 featured an ESPN styled presentation (as Sega made a deal with the Network), and it was from that point forwards that the competition between franchises would get interesting. The NFL 2K series kept pushing the boundaries on innovation by even including a First Person View mode which at the time was considered a cool feature, as it placed video game players right on the shoes of their favorite NFL player.
The last straw for EA would be ESPN NFL 2k5’s arrival. In one of the boldest moves in Video Gaming history Sega delivered a haymaker to EA’s Madden by the debuting their NFL title at the price point of 19.95. The move ‘soiled’ the pants of some EA executives, as Sega was selling as superior product (Madden wouldn’t catch up for years to some of NFL 2k5’s innovations) for half the price.
Sega’s bold approach and NFL 2K’s quality prompted EA to negotiate an exclusive deal with the NFL for an undisclosed amount of money. The deal effectively ended the increasingly superior NFL 2k franchise’s run for at least two decades as 2026 will mark 22 years of EA exclusivity with the NFL license.