The difficult relationship
between publishers Electronic Arts and Ubisoft has now become even more interesting, since Ubisoft has now announced its own line of console sports video games, likely to compete on various levels with the dominant EA Sports. The overall line has no unifying name as yet, but will encompass all major sports. The games will initially be console-only releases, with versions available for next-generation systems as well.
The games will be powered by code and engine assets from Microsoft's defunct sports line; Ubisoft has picked up the remnants of the NHL Rivals
, NBA Inside Drive
, MLB Inside Pitch
, and NFL Fever
franchises, originally developed in-house at Microsoft's game studios in Seattle. These last two franchises are also intriguing, given EA's lockdown on the rights to the NFL license and Take-Two's effective control of the MLB set of licenses. There's no indication on what Ubisoft plans to do with regard to this, but it could theoretically go the way of publishers such as Midway, which is producing a edgy, high-octane football title (Blitz: The League
) which features behavior unlikely to be officially sanctioned by the NFL.
The only concrete title to emerge from the announcement, in fact, is a golf title based on Vijay Singh, who took the title of top golfer from Tiger Woods in 2004. Ubisoft didn't specify whether the Singh game would be built with a new engine, or if it too would use reworked Microsoft technology -- in this case, the Links
engine. However, this seems unlikely, since the Links
creator, Salt Lake City's Indie Built Games, was recently sold
to Take-Two in a separate Microsoft deal.
The Vijay Singh license fits with Ubisoft's statement that the games will feature "several worldwide licensing agreements and acquisitions;" more information about the other sports titles will probably emerge after their respective licensing deals get nailed down. No estimate release dates for any of the games, including the golf title, were given.