Electronic Arts will not release a college football video game in 2014, and the publisher is reconsidering the series' future, the company announced today.
"Today I am sad to announce that we will not be publishing a new college football game next year, and we are evaluating our plan for the future of the franchise," said Cam Weber, general manager of American football at EA Sports, on EA's blog. "This is as profoundly disappointing to the people who make this game as I expect it will be for the millions who enjoy playing it each year."
EA is a defendant, along with the NCAA and the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) — which handles licensing for almost all the colleges and universities that appear in the game — in a number of ongoing lawsuits filed by former student-athletes. The former college players charge that the NCAA, CLC and EA profited off the use of the athletes' likenesses without compensating them, and are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. The suits could change the face of collegiate athletics altogether.
When the NCAA announced this past July that it would not renew its existing agreement with EA, under which it licensed the NCAA name and logo to the publisher, EA said it would nonetheless continue its NCAA Football series with a different name. The CLC and EA announced the signing of a new three-year licensing agreement in the same week, but since then a number of top college football conferences, including the Southeastern Conference, have dropped out of the game, and Weber said today that the combination of those setbacks became too much to bear.
"the ongoing legal issues ... have left us in a difficult position"
"The ongoing legal issues combined with increased questions surrounding schools and conferences have left us in a difficult position — one that challenges our ability to deliver an authentic sports experience, which is the very foundation of EA Sports games," Weber explained.
According to Weber, EA is "working to retain the talented people who are part of the team by placing them elsewhere within the EA Sports organization." The NCAA Football series is developed at Maitland, Fla.-based EA Tiburon, which is also the studio behind EA's Madden, Tiger Woods PGA Tour and NBA Live franchises. Weber also said EA remains committed to supporting this year's game, NCAA Football 14.
"For our part, we are working to settle the lawsuits with the student-athletes," added Weber. Earlier this month, EA, the NCAA and the CLC all asked a federal judge to dismiss the main lawsuit against them, which is led by former University of California, Los Angeles basketball star Ed O'Bannon. Weber's statement did not rule out a future for the franchise — if the litigation is settled, there is a chance that EA would develop college football game again — but NCAA Football 14 is it for the foreseeable future.
Update: EA, the CLC, the plaintiffs in the O'Bannon suit and the plaintiffs in the right-to-publicity suit led by Sam Keller have reached a settlement of their litigation, according to documents filed in federal court today. The settlement has not yet been approved by the court, so its effect remains unclear at this point.