EA Sports College Football will launch in 2024, not 2023, as many had expected, according to two letters obtained and posted by a sports business journalist on Tuesday morning.
The communications — a note from the Collegiate Licensing Company to its clients, and a draft news release from Electronic Arts confirming a 2024 launch window — were first reported by Matt Brown of the D1 Ticker college sports newsletter network.
Polygon has reached out to Electronic Arts representatives for comment. The publisher did not specify a launch date or window for EA Sports College Football when it first revealed the project in February 2021.
“While many expected 2023, EA Sports explains that this is necessary to ensure that their development team can build the best college game possible with the detail and the gameplay they are known for delivering to fans,” the CLC’s note said. Brown said the letter was sent to member universities’ athletic departments late Monday evening.
The CLC said it “hope[s] to be able to share the plan for athlete opt-ins very soon,” meaning real-life college football players appearing under their names, images, and likenesses, and being paid for it. The NCAA in 2021 began allowing college athletes to reach these so-called NIL deals with sponsors without jeopardizing or losing their eligibility.
When EA Sports first announced the return of its college football series, the publisher said real-life players would not be part of the game. Later that summer, after the NCAA’s new policy on NIL compensation, EA said it would “explore the possibility” of including real players.
In the draft news release that Brown obtained, EA said it was “working to include college athletes in a meaningful way in the game, extending our commitment to authenticity as we create a level of college football immersion like never before.”
The rest of the draft news release highlighted the numerous “team runouts, mascots, cheerleaders, uniforms, historic school items, and more,” that are coming to EA Sports College Football. “Plus, the [development] team has been able to plug into onsite broadcast audio feeds for the first time, allowing them to capture live gameday crowd audio, and have started recording some of the most recognizable commentators in the sport for use in-game.”
The publisher concluded the draft announcement by saying, “EA Sports College Football will launch in Summer 2024.
“Building a game like this from the ground up is complex, and we want to get it right for you,” EA said.
Update: Electronic Arts confirmed the summer 2024 release window to ESPN in an interview published Tuesday morning.
“That’s the best date for us to bring the game that we think is going to meet or exceed our player expectations,” Daryl Holt, the general manager of EA Sports, told ESPN. “And cover the breadth and scale of what we want in the game. We’re trying to build a very immersive college football experience.”
Regarding the inclusion of real college football players in the video game, Holt said, “The road’s open now, but it’s still under construction.” ESPN’s story said that EA Sports College Football had the rights to all 10 conferences in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision, as well as the season-ending College Football Playoff.
In a separate story on ESPN.com, Holt confirmed that EA Sports College Football will have the career modes Road to Glory and Dynasty — single-player and team, respectively — when it launches. The two had been staples of the NCAA Football franchise up to its cancellation in 2013.
That story also mentioned that Notre Dame’s participation is apparently conditional on the participation — and compensation — of its athletes. Electronic Arts told ESPN that if any player appears in the game, he will be compensated.