Back in February of 2021, EA Sports announced it was bringing back a college football video game, presumably NCAA 23, for PC and for consoles.
This past week it was re-confirmed that EA Sports is looking to release this college football game in July of 2023. NCAA 23 will be the first college football video game from EA Sports in ten years since the series was discontinued in 2013.
There should be reasons for excitement. There should be reasons a new college football video game is a good thing for the Florida Gators. There should be reasons NCAA 23 will have so many improvements compared to NCAA 14.
There is just one problem, NCAA 23 is going to be terrible.
And you know it.
EA Sports, It’s In The Game
In 1993, Bill Walsh College Football was released on Sega Genesis and Sega CD. A Super Nintendo version came out in 1994.
These games didn’t have any official licensing of college teams or players, but a squad resembling the Florida Gators did make the cut of the 24 teams included in the game.
Improvements and official licensing would be added over time and the series would officially rebrand under the NCAA banner in 1997 with NCAA 98 (featuring Danny Wuerffel on the cover).
While NCAA always had a lot of similarities to its big brother Madden, NCAA had a charm that Madden couldn’t always replicate. Just the sheer number of teams and play styles within college football allowed users to create fresh and unique matchups constantly. Taking over a lowly school from the MAC and building them into a national champion was a feeling you just couldn’t get in Madden.
It was also always fun to pick the Florida Gators, set the difficulty to easy, and destroy all of UF’s rivals.
You Guys Are Getting Paid?
While the series used real teams and real stadiums, no players were officially in the game. NCAA rules were still in the dark age and NIL didn’t exist.
But roster numbers always mirrored the real life rosters. It was no accident that in NCAA 09, the Florida QB was #15 and was a powerful runner. And as online play started to become a thing, users also had the ability to share custom edits to rosters. With a click of a button #15 magically became Tim Tebow and all was well.
This helped boost the exposure of not just established powers like Florida, since everyone would want to play as them online, but also some smaller schools that had fun players that could be worked into your strategy.
One of my memories from the series was playing as Oregon State online simply because the Rodgers brothers (James and Jacquizz) were so fast and I am the type of player online that likes to win without having to use the top ranked team.
The fun would come to an end though thanks to the lawsuit brought forth by Ed O’Bannon. The former UCLA basketball player brought a lawsuit against the NCAA arguing that his name, image, and likeness was used in the game NCAA Basketball 09 without his permission. The case would eventually evolve into a class action suit that argued as many as 100,000 current and former athletes had their likeness used in video games without compensation.
The O’Bannon suit would lead to EA Sports discontinuing the NCAA series, but would also help pave the way for the NIL landscape college sports has today.
NCAA 23 Is Going To Be Terrible
History lesson out of the way. When EA Sports discontinued the series after NCAA 14, the game was still in a good place. Released on the PS3 and Xbox 360, gameplay was still solid and the game still had its charm over the Madden series.
In its absence, a dedicated online community has continued to do roster updates every season and NCAA 14 has still held up as a very playable game to this day for those looking to get their college football fix.
So if you are excited with what NCAA 23 could look like after ten years of technological improvements, don’t be.
The Madden series has provided the blueprint for what EA Sports is going to do with the series.
The YouTube channel SoftDrink TV has a lot of quality videos chronicling how Madden has gone downhill since moving to the PS4/Xbox One and hasn’t improved since moving to the PS5/Xbox Series X.
The series has removed numerous features that used to be in the game, gameplay has become stagnant to the point where the Madden Bowl champion in 2020 won the tournament without throwing a single pass, and franchise mode has been completely ignored in favor of the micro transaction riddled Ultimate Team mode.
When you load up NCAA 23, I guarantee the first thing you are going to be greeted with is a menu pushing you to NCAA Ultimate Team.
And they are going to market it with things like “Imagine Tim Tebow throwing to Peter Warrick!” or “Now Maurkice Pouncey can block for Warrick Dunn!”
I don’t want to do that.
I want to load up the game, start a dynasty with Anthony Richardson at the helm, and prove to Dan Mullen why he backed the wrong guy in 2021.
”But Ben, the game will still have Dynasty mode. You can still do that.”
Yeah, and it’s going to be terrible. Franchise mode in Madden is so bare bones that most decisions you make are surface level choices and have no actual impact on your franchise. They tried to implement “Coaching Staffs” this year and you could hire and fire coaches for your entire staff.
This was their big marketing pitch for franchise this year, the thing you could already do in NCAA 07.
NCAA 23 should bring an opportunity for Gator fans to re-establish the Florida brand. But in reality, the game is going to push you to do anything but play as the Florida Gators.
And the game is going to reward calling the same five plays over and over rather than using actual football logic.
And the game is going to find a way to suck any of the charm that makes college football what it is.
NCAA 23 is going to be terrible. And you know it.
Keep up with all things Florida Gators at Hail Florida Hail