NFL and 2K will partner up once again after more than 15 years. There is a caveat to the deal, but the result is more football games.
2K announced its partnership with the NFL in a press release Tuesday. The developer will begin work on non-simulation football games with a release planned for 2021.
"The NFL is one of the most successful sports brands in the world, known for creating incredible entertainment for fans," said 2K President David Ismailer in an emailed statement Tuesday. "We're thrilled to be back in business with the NFL in a partnership that will span multiple video games centered on fun, approachable and social experiences. It's exciting to bring together 2K's expertise in creating award-winning sports games with the NFL's renowned status as a world-class entertainment and sports organization."
EA -- which signed an exclusivity deal with the NFL in 2004 for a reported $300 million -- will continue releasing its Madden series as a football simulation game.
"Expanding the NFL's presence in the world of gaming has become a focus for the League as we look to grow the next generation of our fanbase and reviving our partnership with 2K was a natural step in that effort," said Joe Ruggiero, senior vice president of consumer products at the NFL in a press release Tuesday. "2K is a worldwide leader in sports video games, with a proven track record of creating best-in-class and award-winning games and we look forward to sharing more about the projects we are working on with them in the future."
The NFL 2K games started in 1999 on the Sega Dreamcast as an answer to EA's Madden series. At the time, EA had no plans to developer games for the Dreamcast, so Sega purchased sports game developer Visual Concepts to work on a new series called NFL 2K, which was a launch title for the new console. When the Dreamcast was discontinued in 2001, Sega and Visual Concepts brought the series to PlayStation 2 and Xbox starting with NFL 2K2.
In 2005, publisher Take-Two Interactive purchased Visual Concepts and the 2K franchise, which at the time was partnered with ESPN, to release NFL 2K5 in 2004. This was the last NFL licensed game from the developer following the exclusivity deal. There was a spinoff called All Pro-Football 2008 that got around the exclusive license by obtaining the rights of 240 former NFL players to be included in the game.