Andrew Sharp of Grantland wrote about missing the NCAA Football video game series and I could not agree more. Although it’s possible I spent more hours playing games from the Call of Duty or Diablo series’ at this point, there is not a gaming franchise I looked forward to more than the yearly installment of NCAA Football. I don’t remember exactly the first version I played of it, maybe the 1999 version at a friend’s house or something? It was the first game I bought, and my main reason for finally getting a video game console in college1.
I spent hours and hours running dynasties. early on when recruiting was less complex I remember getting through like 5 seasons one year. As recruiting would get more complex I would spend hours planning out my recruiting focus and plans, even though I would rarely ever make it deep enough into the franchise to have even that first class of recruits matter.
Every new version on an existing console would be better than the last, and although things like special teams and penalties never reached a point of realism, the game would just keep getting better. Then a new generation of consoles would come out and it would be like starting over. The last version of NCAA Football hit just before the Xbox One was released. It was the best iteration of the game on Xbox 360 by a long shot, and the best overall version of the game in a long time. But thanks to all the lawsuits it would also be the last version of game for the foreseeable future. This is very hard to swallow since I, like many, have moved on to the Xbox One and don’t play games on my 360 anymore.
I don’t think the franchise is dead and buried for good though. One of two things will almost surely happen in the next 5 years or so. Either the NCAA is going to find a way to compensate players to their satisfaction, therefore nullifying any future potential lawsuits. Or EA Sports will work out a deal with the NCAA to make a game with totally random players, so they cannot be accused of any likeness issues2. Would I buy/play a game with everything in it but real rosters? Almost certainly so.
It might even be more interesting, especially if you could generate rosters how you wanted. Let’s say you wanted to take a “power” school like Stanford and make them a spread passing system, you could just set their offense accordingly and then generate rosters and it would generate them with the right kind of players. It might even be cool to change the level of talent. What if you are a Iowa St. alum and wanted to win championships with them without just putting the game on easy mode? Wouldn’t it be great if you could just make them a five-star program from day one? It could be an enticing twist to get people back into the game. But it has to have the schools, uniforms, stadiums, conferences and fight songs that it always had. That is a minimum.
EA is a smart enough company that if they had an easy way around this they would have done it by now, so I am less than optimistic that it is right around the corner. Even still, there is too much demand for this game to just let it die out. I have heard there are people out there who are still maintaining current rosters for the last NCAA game. It makes me want to dust off my Xbox 360 and check it out. After watching football all weekend I sure did miss it.