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NIL and College Sports Video Games

Updated: Oct 4

This week, we’re taking a look at how NIL could lead to a comeback for college sports video games. These games were highly successful year after year until the legal battle over NIL led them to be discontinued. Now, fans are excited that NIL opens up the door for college sports video games to return, but the complicated story around these games is still far from over.

The Legal Battle

The legal story around college sports video games comes back to O’Bannon V. NCAA, a class action lawsuit filed by former UCLA Basketball player Ed O’Bannon. Representing Men’s D1 basketball and football players, O’Bannon argued in the suit that the NCAA’s use of graduated players’ image and likeness was in violation of US antitrust law. If you’re wondering how this connects to video games, O’Bannon agreed to be the lead plaintiff in the case only after seeing that the EA Sports Basketball 09 video game used his likeness without his permission. After being named as an initial defendant in the suit, EA Sports, one of the world’s leading sports video game developers, settled out of court and ended up leaving the college sports market entirely. New college sports video games haven’t been created or developed since 2013.

What you Need to Know

College sports fans may have heard that there is a new college football video game coming in 2023, but there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the game. One of the most common is that NIL means that your favorite players will definitely be in the game. That isn’t the case. EA’s new game, called EA Sports College Football, will feature real college teams, but the inclusion of real players’ names, images, and likenesses has not yet been confirmed. This is likely because the game was already in development before the NIL Supreme Court decision. It is now unclear whether or not EA is putting real players in the game, or to what extent they will be included. EA released a statement in 2021 that said they would “explore the possibility” of using real players.

EA Sports is working with CLC (Collegiate Licensing Company) to be able to use the real uniforms, names, playbooks etc. of FBS teams, but some schools have made it clear they will opt out unless all their athletes are included and paid. Notre Dame, Northwestern, and Tulane are among those programs. Unless EA and CLC are able to come to a deal that adequately compensates players for being in the game, they’ll likely lose support from many fans and past supporters of collegiate video games.

What’s Next?

Right now, we’re stuck in a complicated place with college sports video games. NIL seems to open the door for a new game to be made in which players are featured and adequately compensated for their role in the game, but it’s more complicated than that. Once EA Sports comes out with a release date and begins marketing the game, we’ll get more information. It will take time for this story to fully develop, so check back in with us for updates in future articles.

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