It’s been awhile since we saw the last NCAA game from EA — a full two years, with the last game having been released in 2013 as NCAA Football — but with college football as popular as ever, the question isn’t so much whether or not the franchise will be returning, but when. The NCAA is big money after all, having topped a billion dollars in revenue in 2014, and that’s not including the revenue earned by the schools and their teams.
The only thing stopping NCAA Football making a return to consoles everywhere? Well, it’s obviously not the popularity or the money involved. Instead, it’s a lawsuit filed by Ed O’bannon against the NCAA. The nature of the case boils down to one thing; likeness rights. Every player owns their likeness, and that’s how endorsements happen. No one really thinks that Shaquille O’Neal is a fan of Gold Bond, he’s just a paid spokesman for the company. When it comes to likeness in video games, though, well — that’s a little bit different.
Everyone knows how endorsement deals relate to products that you might find on a store shelf, but not as many people know the business behind likeness and video games, and it’s actually very complex. When it comes to the NFL, EA had this sorted out much earlier by legally acquiring the rights to use player’s likenesses. That’s standard practice in the industry when you’re dealing with a league like the NFL, so why shouldn’t the same go for the NCAA and their players?
That’s what Ed O’bannon argued, when he brought the case against the NCAA. In the end, he won that case, but it wasn’t much of a victory. While he might have won the case at large, the court decided that players cannot market themselves as that has been established to be a pro-competitive rule. If you’ve been keeping tabs on the NCAA you’ll no doubt know this.
Yesterday, however, there was another development as $18.8 million of the $60 million was doled out to O’bannon’s lawyers. That’s 31.3%, as Jon Solomon of CBS pointed out on twitter. Now that the settlement is starting to wrap up, maybe the NCAA will think about returning to the video game world. If they don’t, they’re only hurting themselves as they miss out on potential profits.
Judge Wilken allocates $18.8 million of $60 million (31.3%) of EA/NCAA video game settlements to plaintiffs’ lawyers.
— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonCBS) December 11, 2015
Just how much money are they missing out on if they choose not to continue with NCAA Football? According to an article published by Forbes in 2013, the top teams and their schools will be missing out on $75,000 per year. It might not sound like much in the grand scheme of things, but when you consider that this is $75,000 generated almost purely through licensing, that’s a pretty big deal.
That’s the thing about licensing. It’s not like the NCAA or the schools and their teams are developing the game, they just license their name and likenesses. When there’s so little work involved for such a potentially big payday that will probably only get bigger by the year, isn’t it worth making sure your players are fairly compensated?
You’d think so, but despite the lawsuit, the NCAA has yet to vote to allow players to license their likeness for video games. In 2015 — a whole year after the initial decision of the Ed O’bannon case — we’re still at a standstill. College sports fans want video games too, and the previous success of NCAA Football proves that.
So are more NCAA games on the way? Even the court agrees that it’s highly likely, once the matter of likeness is fully resolved:
The 9th Circuit Court thinks you’re getting your NCAA video game back eventually. pic.twitter.com/W5VdPQjta3
— Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan) September 30, 2015
Either way, one thing is for sure — the presence of the games on the latest generation of consoles is sorely missed, so here’s to hoping that we get something sooner rather than later. Until then, we’ll just have to remain content with watching live games and playing earlier installments.
What do you think? Do you see a new NCAA game on the way anytime soon? Let us know in the comments, social media or continue the discussion in our forums!