NFL & 2K Partner for Video Game Reboot Coming in 2021

Mahlik Campbell esports /
Via Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 02: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

It's game time! Football fans were surprised to hear on Tuesday that the NFL and 2K have joined forces to bring back the once-popular NFL 2K video game series.

It's been 15 years since the two companies last partnered on NFL 2K5, which featured a then-elite Terrell Owens on the cover. Supported by a boatload of new game design technology that's emerged since, the new games "will be non-simulation football game experiences," according to a statement. The first release is expected to come in 2021.

Makes you wonder: What team will Tom Brady be on by then? 😆


EA Sports, the publisher of the Madden series, offered an update on their agreement with the NFL in response to the news. "EA SPORTS is the exclusive publisher of NFL simulation games, and our partnership with the NFL and NFLPA remains unchanged," a rep said. "Our agreements have always allowed for non-exclusive development of non-simulation games on various platforms."

So, what's the difference between a "simulation" and "non-simulation" game? For the answer, we turned to Ars Technica's Kyle Orlando.

In recent years, Madden has offered a "simulation game style" that it refers to as "the authentic NFL experience [which] plays true to player and team ratings and NFL rules." It's not to be confused with Madden's faster-paced "arcade" style, which features a faster gameplay style, less turnovers and a stronger likelihood of "spectacular catches... broken tackles and ball carrier fake-outs."

Orlando believes the discrepancy will allow 2K to create more of an exaggerated version of football gameplay similar to the classic NFL Blitz series. But 2K will have to be careful as the NFL has leaned away in recent years from the extreme aggressiveness highlighted in NFL Blitz as they want to protect their position on player safety.

A few years after 2K stopped working with the NFL in 2004, a class-action lawsuit was filed against EA for a monopoly-like hold on interactive football games. Nothing changed with the use of the NFL name, though, until now.

Back in the day, the 2K franchise, owned by Take-Two Interactive, was fairly competitive with Madden. I always preferred Madden, but 2K offered a unique gameplay experience that made for a refreshing change of pace every now and again.

Nevertheless, NBA 2K is my favorite video game series of any kind, so I'm looking forward to seeing how they interpret football this time around. 🏈