After months of speculation revolving around Joe Montana Football 16, and more recently faulty rumors backed by questionable motivations, an image provided by the game’s namesake on Twitter has seemingly cleared up one of the major questions about the upcoming product: it won’t carry with it any NFL licensing.
The screenshot, which you can view full size here, shows off generic teams, players, and stadium.
Unlicensed games have generally struggled to gain traction in a marketplace dominated by league-backed offerings. The last successful one, Blitz: The League, released in 2005 and took full advantage of the creative freedom that comes with being unlicensed. Other attempts since include All-Pro Football 2K8 and Backbreaker which have failed for various reasons.
If done right an unlicensed game could be successful. No, it won’t compete in terms of sales, but there is a niche there that has been under-served since the exclusive license was established 10 years ago and there won’t be restraints inherent with a league partnership. The cost of the license has hampered development of Madden all the while the NFL has clamped down on any creativity from the developer. That has resulted in mediocre products from EA that have lacked innovation.
Developers have already commented that the game will have a focus on Franchise Mode, which is important considering that was arguably the biggest fault that sank APF 2K8’s chances. They could look at making it more of a story experience, which has proven successful in NBA 2K, and was the basis for Blitz: The League.
Questions will naturally turn to how much customization the game will offer. Don’t anticipate something robust that will allow you to create, share, and utilize NFL copyrighted material. They’re not going to open themselves up to that potential lawsuit.
Not having the NFL license does mean Montana 16 could be headed to consoles and those behind the game have done nothing to dispel that possibility. Though there is some question over the NFL’s exclusivity with EA Sports given the company’s hesitation to comment on the matter, it was far more likely that if Montana were to be a console-based game it would be unlicensed, and it would have to be to beat Madden to the market this summer. Were this solely a mobile game they would need the NFL license to compete there.