Darrell Holt, vice president and general manager of EA Sports, told ESPN in an interview that the brand would launch EA Sports College Football at that time due to the massive 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 are speculative and his release was not delayed. He said there were a lot of people who wanted to work on the game, and they had to start at Square 1.
That includes figuring out a way to use real college football players in the game, Holt said. This is a change from when the brand announced the game would 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 has opened up avenues for college players to now be in the game, though it’s unclear how the structure will go about facilitating this. An EA source told ESPN that 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 about the fact that we were passengers on this trip, just like everybody 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. Holt also didn’t say what would happen if the FBS school chose not to commit to participating 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.”
Holt said EA Sports works to make sure that as much of each school’s unique traditions and experiences, from the stadiums to the uniforms, are accurately included.
The game will feature the return of Dynasty mode, in which the player can control a school through multiple seasons, including recruitment and transfer gate, and Road to Glory, in which the player can create one player and move that player through the college football process.
Holt declined to go into any details about either, but said 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 we 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 going 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 the Wolverines’ assistant director of player personnel — on the cover.