For NFL 2K Football fans, the announcement of Electronic Arts' late-2004 exclusive deal with the National Football League (NFL) hurt more than a blindside sack from an unblocked linebacker. The agreement made EA's popular Madden franchise the only NFL-licensed game in town and also effectively ended the career of Visual Concepts' NFL 2K Football series. Rubbing salt in the wound, EA would eventually acquire the exclusive rights to make games based on NCAA Football and the Arena Football League.
After EA made the deal, Sega decided to bail on the sports scene and sold off the jock-centric studios of Visual Concepts and Kush Games to Take-Two Interactive. Take-Two formed 2K Sports and made sports games based on the licenses of the MLB, NHL, NBA, and more, but stayed away from football of any kind.
Midway Games, on the other hand, believed that a successful football game did not need the blessing of the NFL, and it eventually released Blitz: The League, a dark look at the underbelly of professional football. Instead of using real teams and players, Midway created a fictional league and made up its own players. The publisher's gamble proved to be a good move, and the game went on to be a surprising success.
Now it appears that 2K Sports is feeling like it wants to get off the sidelines as well. Today, the publisher announced that Visual Concepts is returning to football with All-Pro Football 2K8. The game is scheduled for release on "next generation video game systems" this summer.
"Football gamers have been awaiting the return of the 2K series," said Visual Concepts president Greg Thomas. "All-Pro Football 2K8 will deliver an authentic next-generation gridiron experience, and we are happy to give fans another choice in the football category."
However, it's unclear what sort of players and teams will fill up All-Pro Football 2K8's rosters. While Blitz had the luxury of spicing up a roster of nobodies with gratuitous violence and performance-enhancing substances, Visual Concepts has an affinity for authentic simulations. One possiblity is that 2K will opt for signing popular players of years past to fill out its teams, with Hall of Famers spanning decades going toe-to-toe against each other. However, that kind of roster would require 2K Sports to sign deals with each player individually.
For more on today's news announcement--and more insight on the gritty details of All-Pro Football 2K8--read GameSpot's Q&A with Greg Thomas, president of Visual Concepts.