Electronic Arts continued its downfield drive against its rivals in the football gaming war today. The game publisher and developer today announced an exclusive licensing agreement with the Arena Football League, second in popularity among gridiron enthusiasts only to the National Football League. The game will join EA's current roster of football franchises, including Madden, NCAA, and NFL Street.
The announcement comes less than a month after EA made headlines with its purchase of the rights to the NFL, a move considered by many to be the proverbial "nail in the coffin" for rivals in the football gaming market, most noticeably Take-Two Interactive and ESPN Videogames' NFL 2K franchise and Midway's Blitz series.
In a phone conversation with Todd Sitrin, vice president of marketing for EA Tiburon, developers of the upcoming game, Sitrin said, "The AFL had been talking to us for quite a while, about a year, and the deal finally came to fruition recently."
While the deal promises that an AFL game will be ready for the market by the start of the 2006 season, the agreement is more than just about fun and games. It also "allows EA to share in the proceeds of future expansion team sales," effectively giving EA financial interest in the league beyond the gaming aspect.
"We believe that the business model the AFL has created will provide for a new football experience for video game fans and provide EA with an incentive to partner with the AFL to expand the league," said Larry Probst, chairman and CEO of EA. "The AFL is a unique brand of football and we intend to deliver a unique football-gaming experience from any the industry has seen before. We're pleased to be working with the league during this exciting growth period for the AFL."
The four-year deal begins with the onset of the 2005 AFL season, which kicks off January 28, at which time the two parties will begin the marketing and production of an AFL game.
The AFL previously inked a similar partnership with television network NBC. NBC has the rights to televise AFL games and also receives a cut of AFL teams' value increases.
The AFL is embarking on its 19th season and is one of the country's fastest-growing sports. Part NFL and part National Hockey League, the AFL is played on a smaller field and with fewer players than its fully grown cousin and is known for its high scoring and fast action. The league has produced several NFL players, most notably two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner.