Madden 21’s The Yard may re-ignite rivalry between EA and 2K

Will Madden 21’s The Yard put a crimp in 2K’s future plans?

After weeks of rumors, the Madden development team unveiled The Yard, a new game mode for the Madden franchise. EA touted in its release announcement that The Yard will be a change of pace from what Madden players are accustomed to. Rather than simulation gameplay, The Yard will be more of an arcade-style mode, as players will be on teams of six players, and will be able to perform trick plays and other moves you wouldn’t normally see in a real NFL game.

It’s pretty clear as to what audience Madden is trying to target with The Yard. EA is attempting to entice potential customers who want a more relaxed and arcade-style gameplay, while at the same time, being able to play with real NFL players. However, the timing of this mode is rather interesting. 

The addition of The Yard comes just one year before the release of Take-Two’s new NFL game. Back in March, 2K announced that it had come to a multi-year agreement with the NFL to develop new non-simulation football games starting in 2021. This would mark the first NFL/2K collaboration for a console game since 2004, when NFL 2K5 launched. NFL 2K5, which gained a cult following over the years, was the last NFL-licensed simulation console game that was not developed and published by EA. Shortly after the release of NFL 2K5, Electronic Arts agreed to an exclusive deal with the NFL to produce licensed simulation games for consoles in 2005. The two sides have maintained this agreement for 15 years, and both EA and Madden this past May agreed to extend it through at least 2025.

Because of this agreement, Take-Two cannot develop a competitor to the Madden series. Still, that doesn’t mean that this new game by 2K can’t try to pick off disgruntled Madden players. After all, the new NFL/2K game will, in fact, include real NFL player names and likenesses. While the game won’t be a true simulation per say, Take-Two believes that having real NFL players in their games will play a pivotal role in giving gamers an authentic experience. “We want to give fans experiences that are authentic, memorable, and fun,” 2K President David Ismailer stated in July regarding the new NFL/2K venture. Ismailer added that having real player names and likeness will play a major role in accomplishing just that. In addition, giving fans an arcade-style game with different gameplay could interest NFL fans, especially those who have become disenfranchised with the Madden franchise.

So with all of that said, is it fair to wonder as to whether The Yard is a response to the new NFL 2K game? The answer to that is yes, but the fact is that this new game mode may accomplish multiple objectives for EA. For one, the existence of a new arcade-style mode could freshen up the franchise and make it more appealing to players who want more of a casual experience. On top of that, this new mode and its gameplay do sound similar to what we can expect from 2K’s new game, meaning it’s quite possible that this could lead to a new chapter in the rivalry between EA and 2K Games.

After all, both companies are AAA publishers, and both 2K and EA produce sports titles that have competed with one another in the past. In the 2000s, both EA (MVP Baseball and NHL) and 2K (MLB 2K and NHL 2K) produced competing baseball and hockey titles, and throughout the past 15 years, both companies also developed basketball titles. But while Madden and NHL were able to come out victorious in their battles against 2K (NHL 2K is now a defunct franchise), the same could not be said for EA’s simulation basketball offering, NBA Live. NBA 2K became a smashing success, while the NBA Live series floundered and eventually was shelved last year.

While no one will suggest the same fate will happen to the Madden franchise, and no one should for that matter, the addition of The Yard to Madden is a curious one, given the timing. But considering the battles that have taken place in the past between the two companies, it’s certainly a possibility that EA plans to kill the momentum that 2K has with their NFL game before it even starts