I could never in my life be happier to be proven wrong. For eight years, I have longed for the return of this game and now I got my wish, as EA Sports revealed it was bringing back its College Football game. My buddies and I rejoiced at hearing the news. It has been so long. I’ve seen reactions to this news ranging from exaltation to worry. It is because of all these emotions and feelings at the news that I felt compelled to take a deeper look at the announcement and create our wish list for the new EA Sports College Football game.
The Joyous News
In case you are unaware, EA Sports sent out a tweet on Tuesday, February 2nd, that sent sports fans into a frenzy. The long-time creators of several sports titles, from Madden to NHL, announced that they would be bringing back their long missed and fan-favorite college football franchise.
— EA SPORTS (@EASPORTS) February 2, 2021
Now, I mentioned above how I could have never been happier to be proven wrong. I made my opening statement because, in my very first column for KeenGamer, I pontificated on the likelihood of us ever seeing another licensed college football game ever again. I must admit that I wasn’t completely wrong, as I predicted there would not be another licensed college football game for some time. It appears I may still be correct.
What It Means
In my previous writing on the matter, I noted how even though the NCAA had made the decision to allow for players to get paid for the use of their “Name, Image and Likeness,” they would not be sanctioning “any changes to NCAA rules in permitting group licenses of student-athlete NIL in group products such as video games.”
This still hasn’t changed. Fans should expect that whenever the title comes to fruition, the roster of players will likely be generic models with randomized names, biographical and physical information, and abilities. In fact, Executive Vice President and General Manager of EA Sports, Cam Weber, has said as much already. Thus, collegiate athletes will not be compensated because their images are not being used, and the NCAA has not issued a license for the use of its name or anything NCAA.
On the plus side for fans of the franchise, during the same piece from The Washington Post, it is noted that the deal with EA Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company includes licenses for over 100 schools in Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The FBS currently consists of 130 football teams. With just around 30 schools currently not licensed, the feature noted that EA Sports is going to pursue licensing agreements with the remaining members of the FBS, but Weber noted that “it is up to the individual schools to make that decision,” but that EA is “optimistic” that it will happen.
Fans should be happy to know that the current licensing agreement includes the rights to logos, stadiums, fight songs, and mascots. The fact that a majority of all the FBS colleges are already licensed is another relief for fans. At hearing the news and noticing the lack of “NCAA” from the title, I worried that not only would players have to spend an excessive amount of time recreating players, but also all of the teams. Having all other aspects of the previous college game we know and love intact—accurate gameday traditions, realistic mascot, iconic stadiums—already sets up this endeavor for great potential and leads me into discussing what I wish to see in this upcoming title.
Now, since the announcement, I have seen fans commenting A LOT about what they want for the game—their expectations and what they hope to see avoided. I’m just going to share my own thoughts here as I believe it falls in line with a lot of the recurring reaction that has been since the news has dropped.
I, like many, hope—no, pray—that EA does not turn this into another Madden. A lot of the commentary I saw about this news was very derogative of the Madden series and its reputation of squeezing players for money through microtransactions. While the games have improved in graphics, and I like the “Face of the Franchise” mode that has been added in recent years, I, too, feel as if the series has fallen off as of late. It does not seem to be the same franchise I remember enjoying from my youth.
My next point stems from the above desire not to “Maddenize” this game. A lot of people said something along the lines of “literally just update the graphics for NCAA 14” or “don’t change a thing from the last game” or “just give us the same thing on an updated system.” I wholly agree with this to an extent.
NCAA Football 14 is seriously such a gem of a game. While some might say a lot of its value comes from the nostalgia of it being eight years old and the last one they made, and there is some credence to that. It’s certainly why the title is routinely listed at $100 or more on sites like Amazon or eBay. More than that, though, the game is genuinely good. To put it simply, there would not be a small group of volunteers who work to create accurate, updated rosters for every single team for the start of each new season. It just wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t as beloved and enjoyable as it is.
While there is certainly some nostalgia when it comes to remembering the games, that is not the main reason I hold the series in such high regard. This particular franchise was the only sports title I consistently got every year. While there’s always a new sports game, I’m the type of guy that just updated a, say, Madden every two to four years or so. Yet, with NCAA, it was something I always put on my birthday or Christmas list, and it was always a gift I just really needed to have every year.
This was overwhelming because one, I absolutely love college football, but two, and more importantly, it was a game that literally always got better. Each year, it seemed to improve in just the right areas. Whereas nowadays, certain developers or franchises get criticized for turning out “different versions of the same game,” NCAA just got better in ways that fans approved of. Every year! So, NCAA Football 14 is genuinely the greatest version of the series that there has ever been.
Hitting on some other points, the addition of the real-life College Football Playoff to the way the game is played is huge to the sport and will surely be included. However, I wholeheartedly would like to see an option to expand the playoff system. Many fans, including myself, would love to see an 8-team CFP in the future.
Likewise, I’d like to see the ability to do that in-game, just to test out what a playoff structure such as that might look like. Hell, they should include an option even more in-depth than that—24 teams get into the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs, 28 teams get into the Division II college football playoffs, and 32 teams get into the Division III playoffs. While this will likely never happen in the FBS, the option would be incredibly fun and beloved by players. That is what I really want to see—but I would settle for just an 8-team expansion as well.
Additionally, one thing I loved about NCAA 14 was how in-depth the recruiting was in Dynasty mode. One of my favorite parts of creating a coach, improving my record, working my way up from a small school to a powerhouse—or turning a smaller school into a powerhouse—was the recruiting aspect of the game mode. It made it more immersive, more believable, more emotional, and more fun. I honestly looked forward to being able to recruit as much as I did actually playing the games!
With that being said, recruiting has changed so much since then, and while I don’t think the recruiting system of old should be completely erased, I believe it definitely should be updated. Having recruits make a soft commit then back out, having players change their minds when coaches leave for another school, and so much more are all aspects which can be implemented in the game to make the concept of recruiting and its use in dynasty mode all that more immersive, realistic, and infuriating or rewarding. I really hope they consider not an overhaul, but an update, to this aspect.
While I would love to see the title released on XB1 and PS4, I don’t know that that’s going to happen since the game was announced for “next-generation consoles.” I swore I would never get another gaming system, but I might just have to now. While I won’t hold my breath on that aspect, everything else from the previous iteration can stay the same in my eyes. I loved every mode it had; I loved the announcers (please bring Herbie back—he’s my favorite commentator, despite how many times his in-game comments would irritate me). I loved the gameplay and the environment, and literally everything it has to offer. I have very few critiques of this final iteration.
It is difficult to describe my excitement for this news. I think the sales will be off the charts when the game is released if they do it right. I’d go so far as to make a bold claim here in that I believe it has the potential to be one of the greatest sports games ever made. I’m willing to say that right now—BUT, it will only come to fruition if it is done right.
I hope that EA will listen to its fans in simply updating NCAA 14. Update the graphics, recreate the same modes, maybe tweak the recruiting a bit, but keep everything else the same. Fans literally just want an updated version of the same old game they love. If EA Sports can do that, it will be a success. I’m hoping they will pull it off.
While we can’t predict what EA Sports will do or what the final product might be, we should just be thankful and happy that we are getting another college football game at all. I certainly am.
If you want to share what your thoughts were regarding the announcement of EA Sports College Football or if there’s any other feature or component that you would like to see included in the game, feel free to leave a comment below.