Word broke today that the SEC was not going to enter any further relationship with EA Sports, effectively ending the longest running college football video game series. Common logic dictates that Mike Slive is attempting to avoid any further legal snafus stemming from the ongoing O'Bannon case, which, by the way, is NOT going well for the NCAA. But has anyone considered the alternative?
Is there more money in cutting the middle man out and developing their own video game?
I know this sounds, and probably is, ludicrous, that without the other 111 FBS schools, the value of such an endeavor drops. But, there IS a market for a college football video game. A BIG one. If the SEC were to partner with a big time game developer and release their own game, it would sell - at least for one season, even if the gameplay is awful. And if they were to enter an exclusive licensing deal with said company, and not allow their 14 schools to appear in any other video game, what is the value of any competitor? It certainly drops considerably.
I would argue that the biggest market for a college football game comes from the SEC footprint. Those fans are the most vested in the product. If all of the other conferences band together and make their own video game, sure, there are probably more combined fans of the other 111 schools, but that's also a pie being split 111 different ways. Bang for your buck, if produced properly, an SEC video game would give the 14 schools better return on investment than any game requiring splitting the cash further.
All of this, of course, begs the question: what would the SEC video game contain to differentiate it from whatever the competition might throw out there?
Let's cover the basics first. We're partnering with CBS. Yes, I know that the ESPN deal includes the SEC Network, and the game would be a neat marketing tool by implementing SEC Network graphics on the exclusively licensed SEC video game, but like the game of the week, let's give CBS first crack at this and see if they bite with a wad of bills. I want Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson, Tracy, Wolfson, and Tim Brando. I want the CBS graphics. I want the national anthem of college sports themes. A deal could be brokered to include both ESPN and CBS on the game, sort of like what EA did with the college hoops game a few years back. That would best serve the interests of the conference AND its media partners.
Speaking of partners, The Home Depot is already on board. We even slapped their logo on the cover. I hope those backwoods fools down in Louisiana don't think this is a carpentry game. We're also bringing in Chick-Fil-A and Dr. Pepper and we're going to put their brands and commercials all thru our game. But we're not stopping there. We're going campus to campus, town to town, and we're asking for sponsorship from the little guys, too. Then, when you're on campus for a home game at Auburn, Gary will talk about going down and having some of the lemonade at Toomer's Drugs, and if you're down on the Bayou, Verne will talk about his dinner at Ruffino's. The SEC is more than just a football conference of 14 teams - it's a way of Southern life, interconnected by the culture of its towns. Our SEC video game is going to help capture that. Since we're only targeting 14 campuses and 14 towns, we can explore those locations far beyond any video game has ever gone. We may even go GTA on this puppy and give you missions to accomplish IN THE TOWN before kickoff. (KIDNAP THE COUNTRY MUSIC STAR IN DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE AND DITCH THE CAR!! +$6000! Welcome to big boy football, Vandy!)
If we're only dealing with 14 towns, Atlanta, Jacksonville, and a few other neutral site locales (such as bowl locations), that means we're ignoring everyone else. It's an SEC game - if you want the ACC or the Big Ten, go buy the other game; it won't have Bama or LSU or A&M or Florida. We're going all generic on their teams, their players, and their stadiums. If it were this season, LSU would be opening at AT&T Stadium against the purple-clad Fort Worth University and next year against Madison College. Florida would be headed south to play South Beach U. in Week 2. Slive and his crew may even see to it that the burnt orange Austin University and scarlet and gray Columbus College get dinged a few extra ratings points across the board. (I hope so, the pettier this game, the better.) In the next paragraph, I'll go over my favorite part of the game, which would theoretically include South Carolina DE #97... or, ya know what... Jadeveon Clowney pop some dude from Ann Arbor U in the Outback Bowl. Yes, we cut a deal to get real players in the game. Come to the SEC, be included in a video game. They're going to get a cut, on the conference's terms. (If this were to happen, go ahead and pre-order the game now, because you won't find it on a store shelf for at least eight months after release.)
Lots of unlockables are to be found in my favorite part of the game: SECnarios! It's not a new concept, but we're playing it up to the max here. FIFTY game scenarios you have to beat, in order of difficulty, all replicating the greatest SEC games ever. Each game unlocks something new, from coaches, players, retro teams, the works. Recreate Auburn's rally from 24-0 down to beat Bama in the 2010 Iron Bowl. Belue to Scott for 93 yards. Langham's interception of Shane Matthews in the '92 SEC Title Game. The Clint Stoerner game. And that's just brushing the surface.
The meat and potatoes of the game is of course the franchise/dynasty season-to-season dynamic, which we're calling Bear Bryant Mode. We're covering all the standards. EA's done all of this well over the years, even if some experiments were a bust. However, this is where we're going the extra mile here to fully capture the pettiness of SEC rivalries. Every interaction between teams and coaches will be tracked, every slight noted. Coaches throwing barbs at each other. Hell, video game Steve Spurrier has a shot of being the greatest video game character of all time. If Arkansas beats out A&M for a 3 star recruit, kid's getting heckled at Kyle Field his first time over there. Tennessee beats Bama for a 5 star recruit, boos will rain down on him in Tuscaloosa. South Carolina beats Georgia in a top five showdown in Columbia, the crowd's going to be extra hungry for the rematch in Athens next season. And if your national championship winning coach decides to leave and then return to a rival school in the division a few years later, the volume on your TV will break the first time he returns to Baton Rouge. The bigger the slight, the bigger the consequence. When those slights add up over a five year period, the rivalry rating goes thru the roof. If Florida's beaten Georgia 13 times in a row in Bear Bryant mode, rest assured Verne and Gary are going to tell you about it. If Arkansas upset LSU on a last second field goal the prior year, we're showing the replay a dozen times in the week leading up to the game. James Franklin talks some smack on the radio (we're getting there) about Tennessee, the quote shows up on the Vols' scouting report that week. Literally, every bit of pettiness we can squeeze into this thing. (Oh, and that rivalry rating number has no max in the SEC. We all know, just when you think the Bama/Auburn rivalry has peaked, there's ALWAYS something that can take it to another level, even if we're not putting the poisoning of trees in the game.) The ultimate goal here is to win the national title... but let's just say that the celebration video for winning the SEC Championship is a bit more wild than when you win the National Title. Ya know, exactly the way Bama handled winning both last season.
The soundtrack to the game is perhaps the most important part. We're not just doing fight songs - that's a given. But we're getting the full band playlists. That same silly tune that Bama's alleged Million Dollar Band plays 50 times a game (you know the one), it's there. All the different variations of War Eagle, not just the TD version. (And yes, the flyover's included here, too, along with every other pregame ritual in the conference.) If you're at The Swamp, you're getting "We Are The Boys" as the crowd sways side to side. Oh, and we've got AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" for Bama's locker room intro. And in what's probably the most controversial inclusion in the game, Ole Miss is playing "Dixie." It comes with the territory. We're getting ALL the sounds of the SEC.
Yes, that means Finebaum.
He'll be gigging the different teams and fanbases on all the menu screens, following the season as it goes along. We COULD include Jim From Tuscaloosa to get the full effect, but that'd be cruel and unusual punishment. You'll have to interview with him at least once during the season. You'll have the option of changing the station and getting something else, but you won't be able to avoid him entirely.
How is this not the greatest sports video game of all time?
There I just told you how to do it. Now somebody go and make this happen. You've already got my money. And I don't even have a PS3 or an XBox. I'd buy one just for this. I'd also be single within a month.
Sixth Year Seniors is back! Phil Steele stopped by last week to talk the national picture and Alan & Mikey looked at conference realignment before jumping into conference previews next week.
Spoiler: You will get more takes from Mikey on the NWA U.S. Title scene from 1986 thru 1990 than you will on PAC-12 or Big Ten football.