• Lloyd Campbell III

Next Gen: Virtual Football’s Future

Madden vs NFL 2K

Until 2005, Madden NFL (“Madden”) and NFL 2K dominated the football video gaming world creating simulation games that enabled us to play with our favorite NFL players on any given day of the week.

In “Madden 2004,” Michael Vick was the dream dual-threat quarterback where you could take off with his 95 speed or launch the ball down the field with his 98 throw power.

“NFL 2K” created a different experience. There were no overpowered individual players or plays that were unstoppable on every down. Terrell Owens was the man on the cover, but he wasn’t Superman in the game. Instead, the gamer’s skill level and football knowledge determined the game’s outcome.

Then in 2005, Electronic Arts and the NFL, along with the NFLPA, entered a 15 year exclusivity deal, where “Madden” was the only game permitted to use NFL teams and players. Personally, I believe the “NFL 2K” series delivered a more realistic simulation game that scared Electronic Arts into creating that football video game monopoly.

But hey, it’s been 15 years now, so…

Take-Two Interactive, the new video game publisher for “NFL 2K”, is back in a partnership with the NFL. This time, they will be creating non-simulation games with licensed NFL teams starting in 2021. This won’t immediately compete with EA’s “Madden” simulation games but the deal has definitely created excitement for the “NFL 2K” fans.

The NFL and Take-Two are betting gamers want more football with this renewed partnership. Rising stars like Joe Burrow, Chase Young and Jerry Jeudy will hopefully be featured in these future video games, along with your favorite NFL teams.

I’m at least hoping this will pressure “Madden” to improve their gaming mechanics. The game shouldn’t be dependent on the online microtransactions to increase their profits for shareholders.

Simulation vs Non-Simulation

Let’s look at how the “Madden” and NFL 2K games will not directly compete out the gate.

Simulation games are meant to simulate real life while non-simulation games are not meant to match what you see, or feel, on gameday. Examples of simulation games include “Madden,” “FIFA,” and “NBA 2K.”

These games have licenses with the sports’ professional leagues to use their teams and players. “Madden” implements Patrick Mahomes’ slick throwing motion, Messi’s left-footed shot in “FIFA” is a mirror image, and you can feel the Staples Center‘s cheering crowd overtake the announcers come playoff time with Lebron James.

Non-simulation games do not exactly emulate those real-life nuances. They are more “arcade-like.” Some examples are “NFL Street,” “Backyard Football” and “NFL Blitz.”

There is nothing realistic about Terrell Owens high-stepping for 40,000 bonus points in an empty parking lot with no football pads on (well, maybe?), or Pablo Sanchez’s unreal versatility. While “NFL Blitz” used licensed players and teams on their games from 1997 to 2012, it didn’t simulate real life. The ball’s spiral leaves a blazing tail every throw, tackle animations make you question your high school physics teacher, and most noticeably, 7-man football isn’t played on Sunday (but players who DO play 7-man appreciate this!). But more importantly, the games were fun.

Take-Two Interactive is expected to release a game similar to those three non-simulation games within the next couple of years, and the partnership with the NFL will attract an audience. American football fans will see what unorthodox, inventive approach Take-Two will take to make an engaging video game. I bet it’ll be like “NFL Blitz.”

Another approach Take-Two could take is to release a game that challenges the player’s football knowledge. “NFL 2K5” offered a virtual learning tool in the game that taught basic football plays and jargon, so Take-Two is capable of being very creative with their non-simulation games.

2K President David Ismailer is excited for this multi-year partnership to span across multiple games centered on “fun, approachable and social experiences.” They know what NFL fans and players want as they are already engaging with each other through gaming.

Future of Football in Video Games

Video games used to be “for kids only” but we’re seeing how it’s become a great source of entertainment for all ages. Elite professional football players are heavily involved in the gaming s