ESPN NFL 2K5 golden, due July 20

Confirming rumors, Sega and Take-Two announce that production of Visual Concepts' discounted footballer has kicked off.

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The 2005 football season is starting early this year--on consoles, anyway. Following unconfirmed reports last week, ESPN Videogames announced today that ESPN NFL 2K5 has gone gold and will indeed ship July 20. The game is rated "E" for Everyone and is being released for the Xbox and PlayStation 2.

ESPN NFL 2K5's new ship date gives the Visual Concepts-developed game a 20-day head start on its rival, Electronic Arts' Madden NFL 2005. Besides moving up its release date, copublishers Sega and Take-Two interactive have also drastically discounted the game, which will sell for the bargain price of $19.99 (versus Madden's $49.99 price point).

Sega and Take-Two's aggressive release and pricing strategies have raised some concerns that NFL 2K5 is being rushed to market. It has also drawn public scorn from Electronic Arts' Jeff Brown, who told the San Jose Mercury News, "Sounds like they're throwing in the towel. They're signaling to consumers, retailers and the NFL that they are no longer selling a premium product." Predictably, Take-Two president Paul Eibeler and Visual Concepts' marketing boss Steve Raab disagreed, as you can read in GameSpot's interview with the two.

For more on ESPN NFL 2K5, read Bob Colayco's preview of the game.

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