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The NFL And 2K Announce Partnership To Produce Multiple New Video Games

The NFL and video game powerhouse 2K announced a multi-year partnership encompassing multiple future video games. This partnership marks the return of football-themed games to 2K’s already impressive collection of sports-themed games. While specific game titles, developers and release dates will be announced at a later date, 2K confirmed the projects are in early development and will launch starting in calendar year 2021. 

The marriage of the NFL and 2k seems to be a match made in heaven, on paper, for both franchises. The pros of this deal is that the NFL gets to extend the reach of their brand by further engaging the younger generation of people who play video games, and 2K gets to re-establish their rapport with the fans they lost due them discontinuing their NFL 2K game in 2004. The only con of this partnership is the possibility of the series of games flopping, resulting in the loss of a lot of money and the tarnishing of both franchises brands. 

“Expanding the NFL’s presence in the world of gaming has become a focus for the League as we look to grow the next generation of our fanbase and reviving our partnership with 2K was a natural step in that effort,” said Joe Ruggiero, Senior Vice President of Consumer Products at the NFL. “2K is a worldwide leader in sports video games, with a proven track record of creating best-in-class and award-winning games and we look forward to sharing more about the projects we are working on with them in the future.”

This partnership is in no shape or form a shot at the Electronic Arts’ (EA) NFL game Madden. The truth of the matter is that 2K is a video game empire that has loyal fan bases across the sports world. Other 2K-published games include the top-selling and top-rated NBA video game simulation series NBA® 2K, as well as WWE® 2K, The Golf Club 2019 Featuring PGA TOUR®, Borderlands™, BioShock®, Mafia®, Sid Meier’s Civilization® and XCOM®

The NFL partnership announcement follows several recent growth updates from the publisher of 2K and its development studios.

“It’s an exciting time for 2K and our fans,” said Ismailer. “We’re growing our s​ports offerings and building on our core games with new IP, as well as continued support of award-winning franchises, all with the goal of giving our fans more amazing games and entertainment for years to come.”

The most interesting element of this partnership is the fact that 2K is releasing non-simulation football game experiences. The reason that they cannot release a simulation game experience is because EA Sports is the exclusive publisher of NFL simulation games, due to their partnership with the NFL and NFLPA. 

What is the difference between simulation and non-simulation?  Basically, the Madden series has featured a simulation game style that it calls “the authentic NFL experience [which] plays true to player and team ratings and NFL rules.” This means that 2k would have to produce a more over-the-top NFL experience that would resemble the Midway’s classic NFL Blitz series. Features such as franchise management, offensive play design, and even modeling of players’ stats and health status could be considered part of a simulation take on American football. But anything that maps to the real sport of football could also arguably fall under the simulation heading, depending on how strictly the simulation definition will be followed. Arcade style football sounds fun, but it doesn’t prove to be sustainable. The NFL Blitz series demise was the result of the NFL asking Midway to tone down that series’ most arcade features, including violent and late hits and excessive celebrations. It will be interesting to see how 2K plans to tip toe the extremely thin line that separates simulation and non-simulation gameplay. EA’s Madden stranglehold on the NFL gaming genre may prove to be enough to suffocate the partnership of the NFL and 2K. If 2K can’t incorporate true player ratings would the game even be worth purchasing?

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