If you’re of a certain age (read: the slow decay that comes circa ages 25 to 35-ish), you probably hold one experience close to your heart. The cumulative days, weeks, or most likely, months you spent playing EA Sports’s NCAA Football series. Racking up eight TDs a game with your Heisman-winning wide receiver. Making Grambling State into a powerhouse program on par with Alabama and Clemson. All the while, bopping your head to the game’s (still) surprisingly punk-as-hell soundtrack, knowing the lyrics to Guided By Voices’ “Teenage FBI” all these years later.
You probably already know the occasion for this nostalgia trip: EA Sports just dropped a vague tweet announcing the coming of EA Sports College Football. (Note the missing NCAA in the title. We’ll get to that in a minute.) No release date. Few details. There’s the tweet, the creation of a Twitter account for the game, and Daryl Holt, EA Sports vice president and general manager, sharing a couple PR-friendly tidbits with ESPN.
Listen: We know that the NCAA Football series is so beloved that fans have been begging for its return since the franchise ended with NCAA Football 14. We’re excited too. But remember: The EA Sports of 2013, when its last college football game debuted, is not the same EA Sports of 2021. The EA Sports of 2021? It just put out a Madden that gamers review-bombed into oblivion, making you wonder, what are we getting into with EA Sports College Football?
First, let’s parse through that ESPN report and the obvious question: Why bring back the series, when the NCAA still refuses to compensate its players? The series crumbled in the first place when the NCAA and EA clashed over using the likenesses of players, which is probably our first hint as to why the NCAA is missing from the new title. For the new college football game, EA Sports will partner with collegiate licensing company CLC to use all of the FBS schools, uniforms, playbooks, and more—but without names or likenesses. (That might change in the meantime, if the NCAA, state legislatures, or Congress make any rule adjustments.) Fans are losing their shit, “ITS HAPPENING” is trending on Twitter, and that’s about all we know.
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The hype from the fans’ end is well-deserved. But once the excitement of making like Nick Saban and recruiting a five-stars-everything class fades away, we have to ask some questions. Back in the first decade and a half of this century, EA Sports rolled out all-timer titles like MVP Baseball (now dead), NCAA Basketball (now dead), and Madden, which feels like it’s been copy-pasting itself since the introduction of the hit stick. Seriously, the backlash is real—Google “Madden petition” and you’ll see dozens of Change.org petitions asking the NFL to drop its exclusivity deal with EA Sports. And EA’s recent problems extend far beyond its sports arm, where it’s become notorious for making microtransaction-heavy titles like its Star Wars: Battlefront series.
Hopefully, when we get our first look at EA Sports College Football, it’ll be inspiring enough to have us dreaming about winning the Heisman again. In the meantime, maybe temper those expectations with a listen of the melancholy, punk-heavy soundtrack to NCAA Football 2006.
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