Easy Points Blog: A League of Bare Bones

Posted: December 12, 2008

Back on Nov 18, there was a mostly overlooked item about Electronic Arts choosing not to renew its license to make Arena Football League licensed video games. Maybe this should've been seen as an appetizer to the AFL's impending main course of 2009 season-suspension.

Arena Football League video games came out in 2006 on PS2 and Xbox and again in 2007 on PS2 exclusively.

Assuming the AFL owners will follow the lead of the players union and vote to suspend the 2009 season, arena football, it seems that not even the video game marketing might of EA Sports will be enough to keep the "indoor war" afloat. Electronic Arts was, and ESPN still is, an investor in the AFL with an ownership interest in the league itself. The thought being that partial ownership could help EA avoid some of the creative difficulties that can come with dealing with more established and popular sports leagues like the NFL and NBA.

For example, in Madden NFL 2004, a touchdown to Terrell Owens in Seattle on Monday night would've triggered an autographed-football-signing celebration in the end zone ... if the NFL hadn't caught wind of it and demanded that it be taken out. However, a similarly outrageous event like that in a real life AFL game would have a much better chance of making it into the following year's AFL video game because it puts more spotlight on the league and that's good for everybody including EA, ESPN and Ron Jaworski.

Given that there was no new Arena Football League game in February of 2008 and no announcement of a next generation game for February of 2009, the video game side story to the AFL's troubles is much ado about nothing. But we shouldn't underestimate how video games can lend credence to the health of a sports league. The NHL's 2004-05 shutdown or the NBA's abbreviated season in 1999 didn't scare any publisher away from making hockey or hoops video games.