Just over three years ago, Electronic Arts tackled the sports genre by announcing it had signed a multiyear exclusivity deal with the National Football League and the NFL Players, the players' union. Under the agreement, EA Sports' Madden NFL franchise was the sole official licensee for the US's most popular sport, forcing rival 2K Sports to get creative with its own pro-football series.
Today, EA Sports announced that it has extended its contract with the NFL and NFL Players through the 2012 season. That means the Redwood City, California-based publisher will retain exclusive game rights to all NFL teams, stadiums, and player likenesses and information until the Super Bowl XLVII champion is crowned in 2013.
Though Madden NFL is its most famous franchise, EA Sports also publishes a variety of other NFL games, including NFL Street and NFL Tour. However, part of the renewal agreement is to "look at different ways to bring more consumers in," according to EA Sports president Peter Moore.
One way Moore is hoping to lure more Americans into the Madden fold is through the incorporation of content from the NFL Films production company and the NFL Network cable channel into the "Madden game experience." Other new EA Sports initiatives include a continuation of the "family play" option for Wii games, expanded investment in the wildly popular fantasy football phenomenon, and undefined initiatives to court football fans during the spring and summer months.
"Both EA Sports and the NFL agree that we need to look at different ways to bring more consumers in," Moore told GameSpot. "Traditionally, when the Super Bowl's over, our football business is over, and there's research that shows there are millions of people out there that can't get enough football 12 months a year."
EA Sports' newest attempt to court those football fans, NFL Tour, wasn't treated kindly by critics but is "doing OK" at retail, according to Moore. However, the former Xbox 360 marketing chief isn't satisfied with just pumping out more NFL Tour or NFL Street. "I think we need to be more innovative," he said. "For years, we've done Street versions of games, and I think it's time we looked at online models and perhaps doing something that's truly contra-seasonal."
According to Moore, one promising possibility for expanding EA Sports' NFL portfolio is to resurrect the NFL Head Coach series, which debuted in 2006 but has laid fallow ever since. "Things like Head Coach...well, for me, I love the X's and O's," he said. "It's something that I would love to do if I wasn't in this business. When we look at the success of the Football Manager titles in Europe, there's no reason we can't do the same thing here. We've kind of tiptoed into it so far, but I think you'll see continued investment in things like Head Coach."
But although he was quite loquacious about the renewal of the NFL deal, Moore was downright reticent about EA Sports' plans for its other exclusive US football agreements with the NCAA and the Arena Football League. "We'll get to those when we get to those," he said.