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EA Sports' boss on Tiger, Madden, NCAA and this interesting year

It's been an interesting year for EA Sports.

We're weeks away from the release of next-gen consoles, where games like FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25 and NBA 2K14 will launch alongside the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Earlier this year, Electronic Arts spent $40 million to settle a lawsuit with the Collegiate Licensing Company, NCAA and thousands of student-athletes. In June, the NCAA decided not to renew its license with the company. By September, EA had canceled its 2014 college football game.

Just last week, the company announced that its golf franchise would continue without Tiger Woods.

"We're still going to make golf games. We think people want to play on the major courses."

We spoke with executive vice president of EA Studios Patrick Soderlund recently about the recent turmoil and the future of EA's long-running sports franchises, including Madden.

This year's oddities are coincidental and not indicative of anything bigger at EA, Soderlund told Polygon.

"I think it's more coincidental than anything else," he said. "Tiger Woods, as an example, was [that] we came to the end of an agreement with Tiger. It was mutual that we part ways. We're still going to make golf games. We think people want to play on the major courses."

EA "remains committed to golf," he said, and the end of its relationship with Tiger Woods was more business than anything else.

"I think it's more normal course of business and actually not so dramatic," he said. "To me, it's, 'Okay, we're making a golf game. Tiger's not going to be on the cover of it. That's fine by me.'"

In other words, Soderlund believes that it's the game — a combination of gameplay, graphics and multilayer capabilities — that will sustain EA's golf franchise.

When asked if this could be the beginning of a pattern in which perhaps Pro Football Hall of Fame coach John Madden could disappear from EA's football titles, he was quick to point out that nothing in that relationship had changed.

EA remains "very, very committed to football and our ambition is to keep making football games" with no plans to change the Madden affiliation, he said.

"You need a connection to the players."

NCAA football is another matter. With the loss of the NCAA license, the future of a college football franchise seems clear. In short, there is no future without it.

"Just like with Madden and the NFL, you need a connection to the players," he said. "You need a connection to the teams."

For now, EA and Soderlund are concentrating on what they can do with the properties they have. And that, of course, brings us back to next-gen gaming ,which is something that he and the company are excited for.

"Being a little bit of a tech geek, I get excited about these events," he said. "This is my third or fourth transition making games, and every time there is one, there's like a special time in our industry. I think, to not be excited if you're into games or play games, I think that would be a little bit odd.

"So, yeah, I'm super excited about it."

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