2K has signed a multi-year partnership with the National Football League that will allow the publisher to produce "multiple new video games," although the company won't be allowed to duke it out with EA for the football simulation crown.
That's because the deal only gives 2K the rights to create "non-simulation football game experiences," meaning EA's annual Madden NFL franchise will remain unchallenged in the realm of realistic football sims.
It also a caveat that prevents 2K from fully revitalizing its NFL 2K series, which last saw a release way back in 2004 when ESPN NFL 2K5 hit shelves, although the brand could still return in some form.
Commenting on how the publisher intends to use the NFL license, 2K president David Ismailer said the company will design "approachable and social experiences" that are "centered on fun." He also said the move will allow 2K to continue expanding its sports offerings, which currently include NBA 2K, WWE 2K, and The Golf Club 2019 Featuring PGA Tour.
As for why the NFL has chosen to expand its horizons by adding 2K to its list of partners, the company indicated it felt the need to diversify to attract a new generation of fans, and that 2K was a natural fit.
“Expanding the NFL’s presence in the world of gaming has become a focus for the League as we look to grow the next generation of our fanbase and reviving our partnership with 2K was a natural step in that effort," said Joe Ruggiero, SVP of consumer products at the NFL.
EA, meanwhile, has responded to the news by reinforcing its position as the "exclusive publisher of NFL simulation games," and noted that its agreement with the NFL has "always allowed for non-exclusive development of non-simulation games on various platforms."
The first title from 2K and the NFL is due to launch in 2021, although multiple projects are already in development.