EA Sports College Football is close to returning after a hiatus lasting over a decade, with the game slated to come out this summer.
On Thursday, EA Sports explained to ESPN its name, image and likeness plan for the first version of the new game. Every athlete who opts into the game and has his NIL used will get $600 and a copy of the game as a baseline payment with the potential for more lucrative NIL opportunities.
In addition, EA Sports revealed other details about the game itself.
As previously reported, Dynasty mode will return, meaning you can navigate your school through years of recruiting to try and build or maintain a powerhouse. So will other features last seen in NCAA Football 14, which had former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson as its cover athlete.
But what else might be coming? What do we need to know? Here are some answers.
Why did the game go away in the first place again?
The game stopped in part because of a lawsuit surrounding name, image and likeness rights in 2013. EA Sports discontinued the game and reached a settlement with former college football players who sued the company.
Then, the wait began.
Select colleges began appearing in the Madden NFL series of games during a create-a-player story mode with generic names — a small step toward potentially bringing back the full-fledged college football game.
In 2021, EA Sports announced it would be bringing the game back. The company took some time to develop it while new NIL rules and regulations continued to be implemented and reviewed. EA Sports, even when it announced the game would return, said real likenesses of players could be in the game, but didn’t have to be.
NIL was still in nascent stage then. Now, it’s fully part of college athletics, so players will get paid by EA Sports if their NIL appears in the game.
So EA solved its real-life NIL question — will NIL be part of the game, too?
Actually, yes. There will be name, image and likeness components in the Dynasty and Road to Glory modes. Dynasty is where you take over a college football program; Road to Glory involves guiding an individual player through their college career.
“If you think about representing what’s happening in the sport, when we talk about things like Dynasty and Road to Glory, there’s new ways to recruit, there’s transfer portals, there’s NIL, there’s a lot of things to think about,” said Daryl Holt, EA Sports’ senior vice president and group general manager of EA Tiburon. “That has really added to the complexity and the intrigue of the sport that we want to make sure is there for our players.”
Holt wouldn’t go into exact detail about how EA Sports is planning on implementing the transfer portal and NIL, just that they’ll be in there. It looks like there will be “at least some” representation to force players to make decisions that will affect their program-building in dynasty mode or what happens with their individual player in Road to Glory.
How will conference realignment be handled?
That’ll also be in the game. EA Sports said all 134 FBS teams will be in the game, as will the 12-team College Football Playoff and every bowl game.
Holt said customization will be allowed because, in reality, we’ve seen the college landscape change enough that one never knows how that will occur. It’s not clear how much customization and what, exactly, that will look like.
One thing that will not be customizable: If a player chooses to not be included in the game, he will not be able to be created in the game by users — although Holt wouldn’t say how they would prevent that, only that it will not be allowed.
Holt said the focus is FBS for Year 1, but they’re “expecting adding to this project and program” as they go forward. In other words — 134 teams, 10 FBS conferences and the Heisman Trophy will all be there. Just not the lower levels of football, such as FCS.
Some of it has to do with the undertaking of building out a game from scratch — adding 134 schools with unique uniforms, traditions, stadiums, player NIL features and more is a massive undertaking, and there’s only so much they can do.
Players are in. Teams are in. What about coaches?
Real-life coaches like Kirby Smart or Lane Kiffin will not be in EA Sports College Football 25. Holt said the focus has been on the players, the schools and the traditions in this version of the game.
It doesn’t mean coaches are forever going to be out of the game. Sean O’Brien, EA Sports vice president of business development, told ESPN the company is considering ways to “offer coaches the opportunity to opt in beyond Year 1.”
“Coaches are a really good example as the figureheads of their schools,” O’Brien said. “Because we believe there’s a real impact to gameplay or to product differentiation that you could be a coach, have a different type of schedule, have a different type of recruiting philosophy, have a different type of gameplay and play style.
“So there’s an interesting way of doing that in a similar way to the athletes. No real way of doing that very easily.”
O’Brien said EA Sports could possibly broaden things in the future. Just not yet.
If coaches aren’t there, what about play styles? Playbooks?
This goes back to game — and program — integrity. Holt said the focus is to make sure teams in the game play like the teams in real life do. “You almost could say there’s 134 different ways to play,” Holt said, because of the nuances of different programs — from off-field recruiting to on-field play.
That includes the play styles of each team, which meant building out new plays and sets to match formations in the game. Holt said the plan is to “show that wide-open aspect of explosive gameplay in college football,” which can be vastly different from the NFL.
What about the feel of the game from a college football perspective?
While the game will be on the same engine as Madden, it should look and feel different than its NFL counterpart.
EA has been gathering sounds, stadium renderings and more from schools for a while. Holt said all the 2024 uniforms for teams will be in the game, along with alternate jerseys.
O’Brien said they sometimes received over 200 photos of stadiums from schools, down to what their seats looked like, along with trophies and statues on campus for in-game replication.
“Our team was like, ‘This is gold that we can use to make a really authentic-looking tradition or aspect of a stadium or a program or a school,'” Holt said. “It was wonderful.”
Schools and EA worked with the Collegiate Licensing Company to collect renderings of jersey, helmets, stadiums and other markings — often submitting them through CLC’s Brand Manager 360. Cory Moss, the CEO of CLC, told ESPN the collection was “astronomical,” in terms of both what EA needed and what schools wanted to provide.
Moss told ESPN they are “pretty close” to delivering everything EA needs for the game, and now the video game company is selecting what they need and plan to use before getting it approved by the schools. Moss said the process started with helmets, then stadiums and uniforms.
Holt wouldn’t divulge much on announcers, including whether there would be multiple announcer teams and who some of the announcers might be.
EA Sports will reveal more specifics in May, according to Holt. This year’s edition, however, is evidently the foundation for what the game will be in future years since they started this from scratch.
He said he played a complete game using two teams Tuesday morning — he wouldn’t say which ones — and that “it’s got a unique feel.” At this point, there’s a lot of “polishing” the development team is still working on to be ready for a summer release, which Holt said is on schedule.