EA continues its longstanding relationship with the NHL and UFC for several years, to continue their lucrative licensed sports games series.
Publisher EA announced today in two separate statements that it has renewed its multi-year partnerships with both the NHL and UFC, meaning it will continue to produce its respective gaming franchises for the next several years. While no details were given about the terms of the NHL agreement, beyond “multi-year,” the UFC contract will last for the next ten years, which will carry both into the next generation of consoles and likely beyond.
Electronic Arts’ EA Sports division has owned and produced nearly every major licensed sports video game franchise for years, including heavy-hitters NBA Live, Madden, and FIFA. This has kept them reaping the benefits of franchises with built-in fanbases that come back year after year for every new release. And while EA’s franchise exclusivity has its own share of problems, it isn’t going to be ending any time soon. None of the game franchises have any direct competitors since they’re licensed by their respective leagues, and as such, hold exclusive rights to the logos and digital likenesses of players. EA has published the licensed NHL game series since 1991 and started publishing the UFC series after it took over the license from THQ in 2012, to similar popularity.
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In both statements, EA lauded an increase in the number of players for both franchises in recent months, boosted in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also by major events in their respective sports, such as the Miocic vs. Cormier bout in August three days before the release of UFC 4. This resulted in a 75% spike in players over the earlier UFC 3. NHL 21‘s recent successful release was also a cause for celebration for EA, as it was reported that the game had the most active players at launch than the franchise has seen in three years. Indeed, the contract renewal is definitely a case of striking while the iron’s hot.
However, EA’s recent history with the two sports series (and arguably all of its sports franchises) hasn’t exactly been… sportsmanly. The publisher has recently come under fire for featuring ads in UFC 4, a game that players paid full price to own, although EA conceded to fan anger and turned the ads off. Meanwhile. NHL 21, par for the course considering EA’s usual business practice with all of its gaming franchises, was lambasted as a subpar game that basically took its previous incarnation and added better graphics and new players, then charged players full price.
But whatever anyone feels about EA’s practices, the fact remains that their sports franchises, including NHL and UFC, are wildly successful and hugely profitable – and will continue to be for as long as the leagues renew their contracts.
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