With rumors flying throughout the gaming industry of now-largest publisher Activision looking into the purchase of long floundering Take Two, many fans of ESPN NFL 2K5, regarded by some as the greatest football video game of all time, have openly been hoping that the company's deep pockets could be enough to wrestle away the exclusive NFL license from fellow giant EA. Well I'm here to crush your dreams: it is not going to happen, nor should it.
Let's get this out of the way right at the beginning of this piece: ESPN NFL 2K5 is the most overrated sports video game of all time. I know I've waxed and waned about this before but it needs to be said again. I've played every Madden since '94 (excluding '99) and it compares favorably to none of those titles. Even its contemporaries on PS2/Xbox under the Madden banner consistently blew away 2K. Sure if you're into watching a game as if it's played on ESPN, then it's great, but if you actually want to feel like you're playing football, Madden is, was and forever will be the King. One's about watching football, the other's about playing it.
Here's another thing for all you 2K fans out there to consider: why on Earth would the NFL want to possibly sell the exclusive rights to its football game to a company that hasn't made an NFL game for going on seven years now? They're are obviously in bed with EA at this point, helping stage the Madden Bowl during Super Bowl week (even if it was an unmitigated disaster) and also having a Madden exhibit at the Hall of Fame. The NFL has absolutely no reason to change its direction in regards to video games.
Madden has helped promote the NFL even more so through its presence as something of a popular culture icon. Video game football is synonymous with Madden and vice versa. 2K? What are they synonymous with? Oh, right, almost constantly being bought by somebody else. What is Visual Concepts known for? Besides 2K football and other sports, they developed the only Madden to never ship. That's who the NFL should invest in. EA's never had problems like those aside from NBA Elite, since those days and doesn't look to have any in the future.
You could easily argue that EA's gone way off the tracks with this generation of Madden football, but it's really not as bad as most people say. I just recently went back to it after being luke warm on the franchise over the summer, but it does hold up remarkably well and is easily the longest lasting and strongest Madden on this generation to date. And yeah, it's way better than that game that was made seven years ago. When your biggest complaints were hand towels and the lack of a halftime show, yeah, you're grasping for straws. It essentially means you have no coherent or factual argument worth listening to, so you wax poetic about a sports video game with outdated rosters and concepts from five years ago. BUT WHAT WILL I DO WITHOUT FIRST PERSON FOOTBALL???
Activision could easily afford to go toe to toe with EA in regards to paying for an exclusive license but the NFL has absolutely no reason to take them up on that offer if the monetary figures were equal. EA, like it or not, has a much more proven track record regarding sports video games, especially football, and has been friendly with Roger Goodell's league for a while now.
There's a reason the NFL initially sold it to EA way back in the distant past that most people seem to forget these days: Take Two wasn't generating nearly enough money through their game, as the only way they could even approach the EA sales figures was to slash the price of the game. And yet Madden still outsold that game. Madden has the brand name that the NFL desires and will always outsell the competition barring a complete dropoff in quality which is very far from happening.
EA could easily rebound on the next generation and consistently blow people away just as they did in the previous generation on the PS2 and Xbox. Whether this actually happens or not obviously cannot be known at this given point in time so we'll have to just wait and see. But when 2K's most acclaimed effort still was beaten soundly in sales by Madden despite the reduced price, the NFL will always side with EA and give them the license. And through their quality, although perceived at a lower value than reality, and the huge sales numbers that will always dwarf 2K's, EA has earned to have priority from the NFL.
So like it or not, even if Activision ponies up equal money to EA's, Madden is not going away. The only chance all of you out there have for a 2K revival of football is if Activision blows EA out of the water which ain't happening.