NFL fans had some unexpected good news back in February when the league announced a “multi-year” deal with 2K Games for the development of “multiple” new video games based on the league.
The deal, which marked 2K’s first involvement with NFL since the release of ESPN NFL 2K5 in 2004, took a lot of gamers and fans by surprise and also ended EA Games’ 16 year stint as the sole developer of NFL titles.
EA was quick to release a statement confirming that it remained “the exclusive publisher of NFL simulation games” and clarifying that its agreement with the sport had always allowed for other studios to develop non-simulation games.
That NFL has taken up this option should come as no surprise – licensing sports brands is big business.
Fans have long enjoyed recreating their favourite sports at home and while many unlicensed sports related games enjoy significant success, having the likeness of a player, an official team logo or the name of a real-world tournament or league on the box is a guaranteed way to grab consumer attention and shift units.
These sales mean cash not just for games makers, but also the owner of the Intellectual Property being used, who can often expect an upfront sum and ongoing royalties.
Little wonder then that officially licensed games are available across all formats.
EA’s Sports division has built up a stable of consistently successful console, PC and mobile games in partnership with brands such as UFC, NBA and NFL while 2K has enjoyed great success with its WWE franchise.
Just as NFL has opted to expand beyond a single developer, NBA recently announced a mobile-centric deal with Nifty Games which will sit alongside its EA tie-up.
It’s not just fast and furious sports that can boast an official video game, cricket fans have the option of Big Ant’s Cricket 19 game which includes fully licensed line-ups from Australia, Australia Women, England and England Women, plus venues Edgbaston, Lord’s, Headingley, Old Trafford, and The Oval.
Away from the world of video games, fans can up the ante by playing officially licensed iGames such as The Grand National detailed by Casino Hawks. The makers of traditional board and table-top games also use licensed branding to draw sales, such as this Subbuteo UEFA Champions League Playset, a 2018 FIFA World Cup Monopoly edition or – for the really retro feel – this Manchester City Top Trumps set.
But no matter what form the game takes, the makers are all seeking the same thing – harnessing a familiar player photo, a well-known logo or the publicity surrounding a major sporting even to draw the eye in an increasingly crowded and competitive market where potential buyers have more options than ever.