2K, the publisher behind BioShock, Borderlands, and many sports titles such as NFL and NBA 2K recently announced a partnership with the National Football League Players Association as well as OneTeam Partners to feature the names and likenesses of over 2,000 current NFL players. “We’re thrilled to be working with the NFLPA and OneTeam to bring the biggest and best stars in football to the games we’re working on,” said David Ismailer, president of 2K Games. “We want to give fans experiences that are authentic, memorable and fun, and having a roster of real-life sports heroes through the Players Association and OneTeam is a huge part of delivering on that promise.”
OneTeam is a company that helps professional athletes manage their commercial licensing, and thanks to their deal with 2K, NFL 2K will be able to include NFL players in their multiple upcoming titles, set to launch starting in 2021.
In 2004, Electronic Arts bought the exclusive rights to NFL stadiums, teams, and players for use in their Madden NFL games, and in May they renewed their partnership until 2026. 2K’s new partnership means Madden is no longer the only officially licensed video game series anymore.
“2K has a proven track record of high-profile and successful business relationships with other sports leagues, professional athletes and their collective fans,” said Steve Scebelo, temporary president of NFL Players Inc., the licensing portion of the NFL Players Association. “The label makes some of the best sports video games in the world, and we look forward to working with 2K, our players and OneTeam on future projects.”
That being said, 2K can’t really turn NFL 2K into a Madden competitor – the deal only allows them to develop “non-simulation football game experiences.” Currently, 2K has several NFL 2K titles in early development, expected to release starting 2021. This will be the first non-EA NFL game to release since 2K’s ESPN NFL 2K5 in 2004 – a game that was very well received.
Only time will tell how 2K’s newer NFL 2K titles stack against Madden. Maybe EA will finally get a run for their money in the sports game market.