Darrell Holt, vice president and general manager of EA Sports, told ESPN in an interview that the brand would be launching EA Sports College Football at that time due to the entirety of the task of creating the game from scratch.
For them, it’s not about rushing to market but making sure that the inaugural release of what they plan to have as an annual title is the norm.
“This is the best date for us to deliver the game that we believe will meet or exceed our players’ expectations,” Holt said. “And it covers the breadth and scale of what we want in the game. We’re trying to build a very immersive college football experience.”
Holt said rumors about possible earlier release dates were conjecture and the game had not been shelved or pushed back. He said there were so many things they wanted to work on in the game, that they had to start everything from the beginning.
This includes figuring out a way to use real college football players in the game, Holt said — which Holt said was their goal. This is a change from when the brand announced the game’s return in February 2021 and the inner workings of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) are still being worked out in the college athletics scene. At the time, there were more unknowns about NIL.
The NIL is a part of life in college athletics now, which has opened up avenues for real college players to be in the game although it’s unclear how the structure will go about facilitating this. A source told EA that ESPN players will be compensated if they are in the game.
“If you look back at where we were talking in 2021, that avenue was closed,” Holt said. “I think I said something to the fact that we were just as much on board on this trip as everyone else.
“Well, the road is open now, but it’s still under construction.”
There are still issues they’re working through with securing college football players for use in the game, Holt said, but “our goal is to work towards that and find a meaningful way to get them into the game.”
The same goes for the schools in the game. EA Sports has partnered with the CLC to secure the rights to FBS schools, uniforms, stadiums, and other college football traditions and will have at least 120 schools in the game.
Holt said they have “a bunch of committed FBS schools,” though he didn’t say which of the 131 FBS schools aren’t signed yet. Holt did not mention whether Notre Dame, which said shortly after the February 2021 announcement that it would not sign on for the game unless players benefited from the use of their name, likeness, and likeness. Nor did he say what would happen if FBS chose not to participate in the game.
The game has secured the rights to all 10 FBS conferences and the College Football Playoff.
“We expect more to join, but we can only commit to what we have in Hopper right now,” Holt said. “And we’ll have more information to share as we move further along that evolving landscape. But we’ll put as many schools as we can into the game.”
Holt also didn’t say if FCS schools and HBCUs would be included other than to say that the game will be an “ever-evolving experience.”
If the school sticks, Holt said they’re working to make sure that as much of each school’s unique traditions and experiences, from playgrounds to uniforms, are accurately included.
The game will feature the return of Dynasty Mode, where you control a school through multiple seasons, including recruitment and transfer portal, and Road to Glory, where you create a single player and take that player through the college football process.
Holt declined to go into any features either mode might have, but Dynasty mode is a priority for the developers.
“Dynasty was at the top of everyone’s mind, at the top of everyone’s list,” Holt said. “That’s been something that I think we’ve been passionately focused on and want to make sure we can get that right as much as possible for year one while still having the core elements to build on as we go forward.”
The game will be the first college football game produced by EA Sports since NCAA Football ’14 with former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson — who is now assistant manager of the Michigan football team — on the cover.