2K Gets The Go Ahead To Use NFL Players In Its Upcoming Football Games

2K reached a deal with the NFL Players Association that will let the league's players be featured in the publisher's "non-simulation" football games.

Back in March, 2K and the NFL announced a partnership to develop a run of “non-simulation” football games, but there was a key piece missing from the puzzle.

The deal cleared the way for the publisher to put out an NFL-licensed game starting in 2021, something it hasn’t done since releasing the much-beloved ESPN NFL 2K5 back in the summer of 2004. However, at no point in the announcement was there mention of the NFL Players Association, a union agreement 2K would also need in order to feature the league’s players in its upcoming football titles.

On Thursday, that piece fell into place. 2K, the NFLPA, and the NFLPA’s group licensing representative, OneTeam Partners, announced a deal that will allow the names, numbers, images, and likenesses of NFL players to appear in whatever projects 2K has in store.

“We’re thrilled to be working with the NFLPA and OneTeam to bring the biggest and best stars in football to the games we’re working on,” 2K President David Ismailer said in a statement. “We want to give fans experiences that are authentic, memorable and fun, and having a roster of real-life sports heroes through the Players Association and OneTeam is a huge part of delivering on that promise.”

Specific titles, developers, and released dates have yet to be announced, but 2K’s first NFL game is expected to be out next year and within parent company Take-Two’s 2022 fiscal year. Most likely, the game’s being set up to launch right around the start of the 2021 NFL season.

In a football game market nearly monopolized by EA’s Madden NFL franchise, word that 2K was getting back to making NFL-licensed games again was encouraging news. Unfortunately, perhaps to the dismay of many fans, a true competitor to Madden these games won’t be, as the “non-simulation” label implies more arcade-like experiences (think NFL Blitz, NFL Street, or the football equivalent of NBA 2K Playgrounds).

Speaking of Madden, EA had its own licensing deal with the NFL extended through at least the 2025 season by the league’s owners back in May. The extension keeps Madden as the lone series of simulation-based NFL games for the foreseeable future, and granted EA the ability to develop mobile and arcade-style games as well.

Still, while Madden will remain video-game football’s headliner, 2K is at least making it so it isn’t the only show in town anymore.

“2K has a proven track record of high-profile and successful business relationships with other sports leagues, professional athletes and their collective fans,” Steve Scebelo, Interim President of NFL Players Inc. (the NFLPA’s licensing and marketing arm), said in a statement. “The label makes some of the best sports video games in the world, and we look forward to working with 2K, our players and OneTeam on future projects.”

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Nick Tricome

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