EA Sports will not publish any college football video game next year, the label said moments ago, citing ongoing litigation brought by current and former college players that threatens to change how all of big-time college sports does business.
"Today I am sad to announce that we will not be publishing a new college football game next year, and we are evaluating our plan for the future of the franchise," Cam Weber, the general manager overseeing the NCAA Football and Madden NFL series. An emotional Weber broke the news 15 minutes ago to an all-hands meeting of both development teams.
"We have been stuck in the middle of a dispute between the NCAA and student-athletes who seek compensation for playing college football," Weber continued. "Just like companies that broadcast college games and those that provide equipment and apparel, we follow rules that are set by the NCAA—but those rules are being challenged by some student-athletes."
The wording of EA Sports' statement is limited only to next year's game, presumably leaving room to publish future college football titles if all parties in three different lawsuits, brought against EA Sports, the NCAA, and the Collegiate Licensing Company, can be resolved.
[Update: 5:21 p.m.] Jon Solomon of The Birmingham (Ala.) News reported today that EA Sports and the CLC filed papers saying a settlement had been reached with players—though the NCAA remains exposed to an ongoing lawsuit.
This development now casts the timing of EA Sports' announcement in an entirely different light. It could mean that, if EA Sports has agreed to pay money in this settlement, it shelved the NCAA Football series because of the costs it would bear there. It could also mean that Electronic Arts agreed not to make any college sports video game for a period of time, or until the remaining litigation against the NCAA was resolved. An EA Sports spokesman would only confirm the existence of the settlement to Kotaku; its terms will be confidential until presented to a judge for approval.
Later this evening, a source familiar with the deal said EA's decision to cancel next year's game was not a part of the terms of the settlement. Those terms will become known sometime in the next 30 days.
EA Sports' announcement on Thursday ended nearly three months of speculation that began when the NCAA, citing its exposure in the suits brought by O'Bannon and two others brought by two former college quarterbacks, announced it would no longer license any college football video games.
That did not affect the more than 120 schools and the dozens of conferences and bowl games appearing in the NCAA Football series, and indeed, following that announcement, the CLC said it had reached a three-year agreement with more than 150 of its clients to continue on with the series, which was thought to be renamed, simply, College Football.
However, in the weeks that followed, the Pac-12 and Big Ten confirmed they were also pulling out of all video games effective next year, and sources within EA Sports confirmed to Kotaku that one unnamed school also had left next year's game.
Weber said EA Sports said is "working to retain the talented people who are part of the team by placing them elsewhere within the EA Sports organization." The NCAA Football team works in the same studio, EA Tiburon in Maitland, Fla., that makes the Madden NFL series, and both titles share a core development team. At the all-hands meeting, according to a source present, the teams were told that "a vast majority" of the jobs affected would be saved.