End in Sight for Madden’s Stranglehold on NFL Gaming

For the last 15 years, the Madden video game franchise has had exclusive rights to an official NFL license. Where the game could use players and all-league likenesses.

Before Madden’s exclusive deal, 2K Sports, now popular for their highly popular and best selling NBA games, were a direct competitor with Madden.

In a time before digital downloads and early access, I was among the crazies who lined up outside the video game store at 6pm waiting for the store to open at midnight, to be among the first to get my hands on the new Madden, and then going home and breaking night playing it. As a guy who can say he’s played every Madden game ever made, I was also a fan of the 2K football game. While it wasn’t Madden, it had its own pros and cons, unfortunately, more cons in my opinion.

The 2K franchise even partnered with ESPN for a time, which added another element, although not in the actual game, but as far as the presentation.

It was announced Tuesday that 2K Sports and the NFL have reached a multi-year deal, to work together on multiple video game releases. Although the first of any such game won’t be available until 2021.

As of now, the latest joint endeavor will not be a direct competitor to Madden. Rather the games will be non-simulation and arcade-ish football game experiences. Similar to if anyone remembers NFL Blitz games, the football equivalent to NBA Jam. While the games will feature NFL logos and players, it won’t as of now, feature the actual playing of NFL games in the way that the aforementioned Madden does.

Rumors have been intensifying that 2K Sports was vying to get back into the football realm. But many believed they were waiting to see if the newly founded XFL was going to be successful, before striking a deal to produce the first XFL video game. Which may have ultimately led to the NFL reaching this deal in the first place.

For at least one more year, the Madden franchise will remain the only true NFL game and experience of its kind. But that may certainly change once their exclusive rights deal comes to an end in 2021.

According to Fortune, the Madden franchise was the top-selling video game of the year four times between 2001 and 2006, if not for a pair of Grand Theft Auto releases, Madden would’ve topped sales all six years. The entire franchise is rapidly approaching total sales of 200 million.

2K had six brief installments, with Randy Moss gracing not one, not two, but the first three installments. The 2K1 edition outsold Madden in its first two weeks of its release, but that was the best they were able to do, as they were eventually overtaken by the EA Sports giant Madden. Although it still remains sort of a cult classic to nostalgic gamers who still own a Sega Dreamcast, a PS2, an original XBOX, or a GameCube.

We’ll have to wait and see if 2K Sports attempts to once again compete with the Goliath that is Madden and actually get back into the football simulation business. 

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