San Diego-based SCEA Sports Studio, a division of Sony Computer Entertainment America and formerly known as 989 Sports, decided to put its lofty gridiron game, Road to Sunday, into early retirement today. The game was the first football title due from Sony in the post-EA/NFL licensing era, and the decision to cancel the game leaves EA with one less competitor. The PlayStation 2 game was scheduled for release this winter.
Road to Sunday wasn't just about football--it featured some elements that, while incredibly venturous, could alienate the hardcore football crowd. The storyline saw gamers take on the managerial position of a football team after the former owner, the protagonist's father, mysteriously died in a yacht explosion. The gambling-addicted son owed a truckload of gambling debts to a Jamaican kingpin and saw the team as a way of recouping some of his lost cash and digging himself out of a financial hole.
To make cash ASAP, gamers would have the option of engaging in some nefarious off-field activities--among them, entering their players in underground fighting tournaments, gambling in card games such as Texas hold 'em and blackjack, or throwing money down on some of the league's football games.
GameSpot chatted with Ron Eagle, public relations manager for SCEA Sports, on the long road that eventually came to an end for Road to Sunday.
GameSpot: I understand the game has been postponed indefinitely.
Ron Eagle: The game has been officially canceled. It basically did not measure up to our first-party quality standards. In the course of development, it was not meeting our standards for where a product should be in its development cycle. It was purely an internal decision.
GS: Road to Sunday was a very ambitious title. Was there anything specific with the non-football elements that kept it back?
RE: You know, I don't think you can point to one particular piece. Like you said, it was a very ambitious product trying to meld a lot of different gameplay elements together, and when we sat back and took a look at it from the whole, we realized it wasn't getting to the point that we need it to be for it to ship this winter.
GS: There were some great football ideas in the game, such as position-specific gameplay. Is there anything you are thinking about holding on to for a future PlayStation 2 or PlayStation 3 football game?
RE: I don't think any decision has been made. But I think it stands to reason that we're always looking to innovate and looking for the opportunities to push all our franchises forward. It's always been a hallmark that we have here, that we're always trying to drive that category forward no matter the sport. So it would not surprise me to see some of the good ideas that came out of attempting to do Road to Sunday in future products.
GS: Did the fact that Road to Sunday was not an NFL-licensed game play in the decision to cancel it?
RE: Not at all. The NFL license at this point was completely irrelevant. This was based again strictly on where we felt like the title should be versus where it was in deciding to go ahead and cancel the Road to Sunday.
GS: I'm sure you're following the whole ratings outcry with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and the pressure on today's games from the ESRB or family-oriented groups. Was this a concern of yours with the game's underground fighting leagues and possible performance-enhancing drug use?
RE: (laughs) No not at all. I can try and do some research for you, but I don't think that we even got to the point where we submitted [the game] into the ESRB. I can personally attest to the fact that it had nothing to do with the decision.
GS: How far along in development was it?
RE: We were expecting a late December/early January release, kind of coinciding with the [NFL] playoffs.
GS: Any chance we can see a Road to Sunday-inspired game on the PS3?
RE: You know, we haven't really taken a look at where we're going to net out with Road to Sunday in terms of future products or future development. But it's certainly something that, as an organization, we're always looking towards the future and the viability of products for that time frame down the line.
GS: I'll wrap up with this. It looks like you're rebranding the studio. Is that correct?
RE: It's not so much a rebranding of the studio. It's always been an entity of SCEA. With regard to a brand versus rebrand, it's really just for us, making sure that people understand that SCEA and San Diego, we are a major development studio. So I wouldn't necessarily call it a rebrand. It's just kind of internal nomenclature in terms of where we're located.
GS: Getting closer to the family, so to speak?
RE: Yeah, I think so.
GS: Thank you very much, Ron.