Comments by an executive with a Canadian Football League franchise re-stirred rumors that the league has some kind of deal going with EA Sports to bring a CFL game to consoles, but later in the day he retracted them.
Update: Shortly after publication I noticed the following retraction by the executive quoted, and it moots the rest of the story. We're leaving it up here rather than bury the mistake, but pretty much everything from this point down is not operative. I greatly regret that lack of basic diligence.
I have reached out to EA Sports representatives for clarification, but Dennis Skulsky, the president of the CFL's BC Lions, was quoted by a TSN radio producer yesterday afternoon as saying EA Sports was making a "stand alone" game involving the nine clubs in the Canadian Football League, with the league's real players, past and present.
Stand alone game w/ current & alumni cfl rosters rosters, CFL stadiums, with U.S. field/gameplay https://t.co/D69AkpVFoI— Ryan Houdayer (@RYANhoudayer) July 29, 2016
This game, however, would essentially be a reskinned edition of Madden, as it will be played by American football rules on a 100-yard field, not 110 yards. Canadian football differs from American football in several ways, most notably that there are 12 players on a side; teams have three downs, not four, to advance the ball 10 yards; goalposts are situated on the goal line; it is possible to score a single point (the "rouge") on a kickoff; and when a fan calls a player his favorite, that word is spelled with a U.
This is not the first time a CFL game based on Madden, or including the teams in the main game, has been mentioned. In November last year, the CFL's commissioner said he had been in "some serious talks with the leader in this space," about a CFL video game, or potentially putting the league in Madden.
Apparently, none of the CFL's many different rules would be included
It also helps that Cam Weber, the studio chief for EA Tiburon, which makes Madden, is Canadian (and a former college quarterback, though Simon Fraser University plays in the NCAA). At E3 2012, Weber told me that he'd already had "multiple conversations" with the CFL's commissioner since becoming the general manager of EA Sports' American football products in 2011.
Moreover, his own developers built a working CFL prototype — with the rule variations — using Madden's technology and the old NCAA Football TeamBuilder toolkit, though nothing ever came of it.
"Right after I joined [EA Tiburon] I got a lot of those comments, being a Canadian," Weber told me in 2012. "You know, 'Hey, I guess we'll be making a CFL game.'"
As this is now second- and potentially third-hand information, it's possible someone in the CFL heard one thing and mistook it for another, and we are at the end of a big game of telephone here. I have reached out to two EA Sports representatives in the U.S. and Canada but as luck would have it, both are on vacation. It's also a weekend.
It's not out of the realm of possibility but let's pump the brakes on this being a sure thing or a feature within Madden, like international basketball teams that are included in the NBA 2K series. A decade ago, Madden did have the old NFL Europe teams in the game, but that, of course, was something owned by the league and played according to its rules.
A complete reskin would be the lowest-cost (to EA Sports) way of including the league, but as a stand-alone game played by NFL rules, it would hold little appeal to CFL fans or Americans interested in a novelty. It's also possible everyone is completely mistaken and the CFL's presence is within Madden's popular, and very lucrative, Ultimate Team. This bears watching.