After 16 years of exclusivity with EA and the Madden franchise, the National Football League is seeing other people again. The NFL and 2K have reached a new agreement to develop multiple “non-simulation football game experiences.” This likely means that NFL 2K, the long-dormant football sim series that 2K Sports put out in the early 2000’s is not making a comeback, but it does mean EA and Madden aren’t going to be the only place you can go to get your football fix.
The first of these mystery football games will launch in 2021, more specifically during 2K’s 2022 fiscal year, which begins in October of 2021. Put this all together and it means that whatever the first game in the pipeline is, it will launch in the fall of 2021.
“The NFL is one of the most successful sports brands in the world, known for creating incredible entertainment for fans,” said 2K President David Ismailer. “We’re thrilled to be back in business with the NFL in a partnership that will span multiple video games centered on fun, approachable and social experiences. It’s exciting to bring together 2K’s expertise in creating award-winning sports games with the NFL’s renowned status as a world-class entertainment and sports organization.”
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“Expanding the NFL’s presence in the world of gaming has become a focus for the League as we look to grow the next generation of our fanbase and reviving our partnership with 2K was a natural step in that effort,” said NFL Senior Vice President of Consumer Products Joe Ruggiero in a press release. “2K is a worldwide leader in sports video games, with a proven track record of creating best-in-class and award-winning games and we look forward to sharing more about the projects we are working on with them in the future.”
The last time 2K Sports published a football game was in 2007 with All-Pro Football 2K8, but as EA had exclusive rights to NFL and its players, 2K had to individually license the likeness of 240 retired players to fill out the roster. Before that, the NFL 2K series had a game released annually from 1999 to 2004, with the final game in the series, NFL 2K5, launch on PlayStation 2 and the original Xbox.
While fans of the simulation franchise might be sad to hear it’s probably not returning, 2K making a point to distance itself from the simulation label will likely give it a chance to reach untapped markets rather than trying to take people away from Madden.
2K isn’t the only company making major deals with sports companies lately, as Sony and Major League Baseball recently came to an agreement to develop MLB The Show, a longtime PlayStation exclusive franchise, for other platforms, which means not only are these games coming to Xbox and Nintendo platforms in the future, but Sony San Diego, a first-party Sony studio, is going to be making games for other consoles as a rule now.