Madden 2005, Electronic Arts’ premier sports game, got a run for its money this year from ESPN NFL 2K5, which not only consistently out-ranked Madden in reviews, but which retailed at an amazing $19.99 per copy.
Now in a move that can best be characterized as “if you can’t beat ’em, use your economic muscle to put ’em out of business,” EA has signed a deal with the NFL that will provide EA with exclusive licensing rights for the next five years. This deal will pretty-much shut down its competitors, inasmuch as a pro football console game without an NFL license is likely to be as successful as the Cowboys’ defense will be against Philly this Sunday.
The winners? EA and the NFL, who will rake in a ton of cash – charging $49.95 per copy to any console player who wants to play with current NFL teams for the next five years. The losers? Possibly, just about everyone else. With the ESPN franchise out of the picture, EA can cut back on its development budget for future Madden games, providing a roster update and (perhaps) a new feature or two each year.
What a shame. With the ESPN franchise poised to compete with Madden, some incredible things were probably coming to console football. But now, as things stand, I fear we may end up paying new game prices for roster updates and a new coat of paint, graphics-wise for the balance of the decade.
Console gamers, get used to playing Madden, because its going to be the only kid on the block for a while.