As one of what now is only a handful of major licensed sports games every year NCAA Football should never find itself this low on a year-end recap. Though not as afflicted by serious issues as NCAA 12 this year’s effort comes in way down at #9 for it’s lowest placement yet.
The lack of passion and ambition was the overwhelming takeaway from NCAA Football 13 and if that doesn’t change then the series and college football gaming entirely could follow college basketball and disappear in the years to come.
The ranking of games in the best of 2012 list is based on number of factors including the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title, whether advertised features were fully delivered, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is largely a personal take and one with the advantage of tracking the games beyond just the release frame and does not act as some sort of recap of those with the highest scores on Metacritic. The analysis is weighted heavily towards those high in fun factor while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the field.
It has become evident that a number of factors are damaging either the ability to produce a worthwhile NCAA product or the motivation for EA Sports to devote the proper resources in order to achieve such a goal. NCAA used to be innovative and it has become anything but that in recent years. The investment isn’t there – maybe considering slumping returns – and the growth potential is minimal. It’s not a time where consumers have much to be encouraged about when considering the future of NCAA gaming.
The player likeness lawsuit making it’s way through the courts (the latest can be read here as it currently is slated to begin in June 2014) threatens the immediate legitimacy of any college gaming product. The lack of opportunity for digital revenue is another difficult bridge to be crossed. Sales numbers have been dropping as it was the only major EA Sports title in 2012 that saw declines.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding development they have no bearing on how consumers should approach the product. There are levels of expectations to be met and EA has failed to reach them with NCAA 13. That game offered no apparent compelling additions or improvements and the post-release support that followed was uninspiring. Uniform updates were only provided for Reebok until the most recent release of a few Under Armour designs. Patches addressed some issues but did not drastically improve the game or provide additional features such as Madden NFL 13 received.
There were a number of authenticity problems in addition to missing out on the “Infinity Engine” physics that greatly enhanced Madden. Even the Roster Share feature was down for over a week before EA bothered to get it back up and running and loading times throughout remained entirely too long. Heisman Challenge mode was clearly designed with marketing in mind and did not attract the interest of many. Presentation in particular, and game atmosphere, remained inconsistent and overwhelmingly lacking.
While all of that was deflating NCAA 13 did bring with it some basic gameplay enhancements that proved beneficial while improving the online experience especially with the avoidance of roadblocks in Online Dynasty mode. The level of familiarity the product offered this year could be perceived as a positive by some even though the more dedicated crowd was let down by that.
The NCAA Football series has reached a point where EA Sports must decide whether they are dedicated to producing something worthy of its past stature or whether it has begun a transition to a second-tier of products. Actions the last few years have pointed towards the latter being the likely route the company takes. If the player likeness lawsuit ends unfavorably it would likely end the series anyway and they may just be trying to bide time until a decision is reached one way or the other. Unfortunately that leaves consumers in the now watching a once proud series wither away.
Year in Review
Much more to come throughout the month!
•#9 of 2012: NCAA Football 13
•#10 of 2012: NFL Blitz
•Vote for the 2012 Community Choice Awards
•Revisiting the Top Stories of 2012: Disingenuous Marketing and Unfulfilled Features
•Revisiting the Top Stories of 2012: The Disastrous Road Towards NBA Live 13