Joe Montana Football needs the NFL license

San Francisco 49ers former quarterback Joe Montana walks the red carpet prior to the Super Bowl XLVII NFL Honors award show at Mahalia Jackson Theater. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers former quarterback Joe Montana walks the red carpet prior to the Super Bowl XLVII NFL Honors award show at Mahalia Jackson Theater. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Joe Montana Football without the NFL license would be like a day without sunshine.

NFL 2k5 is the greatest National Football League game ever created. Ever. I don’t want to hear it from you in the Nintendo crew who still fire up Tecmo Bowl on a weekly basis, nor do I care to read about all of the supposed improvements that have hit the Madden franchise over the past decade. 2k5 was more than just any old video game. It was an obsession for even casual gamers who chose to not buy into the next cookie-cutter edition of what EA believed a football game should be. That is why fans such as myself who knew next to nothing about modifying consoles purchased the necessary hardware to continue playing 2k5 with updated rosters years after EA acquired an exclusive licensing agreement with the NFL.

Back in the magical world known as the 1990s, gamers did not have to tolerate an EA monopoly on NFL titles. Those who owned the Sega Genesis, as an example, were able to go with the Joe Montana/NFL Football family of games rather than Madden. A return to those glorious days could be in the future, but how enticing and how profitable that venture will be remains in doubt because of the elephant in the room.

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Legendary quarterback and NFL royalty Joe Montana has been hinting about being involved in the production of a new football video game since 2014, and he unofficially announced its existence via Twitter on March 16 of this year. It is not yet known what company will be producing the game nor does Joe Montana Football 16 have an official release date, although its name seems to suggest that we could see it before the end of the year. Some are expecting that it will be released before August 2015.

The one thing everybody interested in Joe Montana Football wants to know is if the game will have current NFL rosters that can be updated on a yearly basis during franchise modes. It has been widely reported that the game will instead feature the likes of Montana, John Elway and hundreds of other recognizable retired pro football players, but there has also been speculation that a company such as Microsoft that already has an existing relationship with the NFL may be working on a way to get around the deal that EA has with the league.

Here is what I do know about the upcoming game: Montana and everybody else associated with it should not even bother if no NFL licensing deal can be acquired.

We’ve been here before with football video games that have not had associations with the NFL. We’ve seen the movie, and we know how it ends. Developers and publishers promise to be on the cusp of making the next big thing in football video games that will replace EA and Madden as the kings of the genre, the game comes out with much fanfare and with great anticipation, and then it turns out that NFL fans who also play video games don’t want to play a game that has made up characters and guys who haven’t been in the league for decades.

Why anybody would think things would go differently this time around is a mystery.

Think back to when All-Pro Football 2k8 was released to the public. The first football game created by the company since 2k5 was visually and in game-play an updated version of the fantastic NFL title. We who happily gave our time and our money to play the older NFL games were promised in chat rooms and on forums that we would help launch a revolution of the industry by getting the word out and by buying APF2k8 the second that it hit the shelves.

Many of us, as it turned out, were liars.

Pro Evolution Soccer is another example of a game that is not as successful as its rival due to license agreements. PES is equal to and even better than FIFA in some ways — I said it, fanboys — but there is a perception that the franchise is a laughing stock because of the limited licenses Konami is able to acquire. It’s fun to hear the actual Champions League and Europa League themes before certain matches, sure, but playing the game without downloadable roster, kit and squad modifications feels like messing around with a crummy imitation.

Video games offer a different kind of release for sports fans who play in that we get to live out situations that did not occur in real life, storylines that we wish had unfolded on playing surfaces. You can win the Super Bowl with the current version of the Cleveland Browns in Madden. You can take the 2015 New York Mets to a World Series berth. You can guide a club such as Newport County or even the New York Red Bulls to the mountaintop of world soccer. As silly as it may sound to some, we want to see names and brands that we recognize when playing sports titles.

A Joe Montana Football game that cannot provide that will not be worth the investment for a large majority of fans.

Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe JMF will do the unthinkable and put a dent in the popularity of the Madden franchise without having any relationship with the NFL. The more likely scenario if JMF has no NFL license, however, is that the game will come out and it will go largely ignored by those of us who love pro football. That’s a shame, because we deserve more than just an updated version of Madden yet again.

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