Electronic Arts Plans Return to College Football Videogames

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Electronic Arts Inc. plans to bring back college football videogames after it stopped making them years ago amid a legal battle over the use of student-athletes’ names and images.

Yet the return comes with a twist, the company says: The new games, for now, will feature real teams, but not specific players, in a bet that gamers will care more about the name on the front of the jersey than those on the back. Under a deal announced Tuesday with collegiate-trademark company CLC, EA secured exclusive rights to market a game that features team logos, uniforms and other college game-day traditions.

EA’s intention to re-enter the college-sports arena comes in the middle of a complex debate involving Congress, state legislatures and the National Collegiate Athletic Association—the largest nonprofit body supervising U.S. college sports—over how and whether to compensate student-athletes.

The videogame publisher is starting game development work—a process that can take years—without current players or their likenesses due to uncertainty around rules from the NCAA, an EA spokesman said. The NCAA currently restricts third parties from using those attributes but that could soon change as the organization has committed to rewriting its bylaws amid pressure from high-profile litigation and state legislation.

The announcement comes as EA reported that revenue rose 5% in the latest quarter to $1.67 billion as the pandemic continued to fuel demand for at-home entertainment. Shares closed Tuesday up 3.7% but dipped in extended trading after the release of its earnings report.

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