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Madden has had a stranglehold on NFL video games for over a decade, but 2K is finally getting back into the mix.

The video game publisher most known for its NBA 2K games agreed to a partnership with the National Football League Tuesday to produce multiple football video games. 2K announced the first games will launch in 2021.

It has been over 15 years since the last NFL 2K game was released. ESPN NFL 2K5, which featured Terrell Owens as the cover athlete, was the last football game released by 2K in 2004.

Since then, Electronic Arts has owned exclusive rights to all NFL teams, stadiums, and players in the video game space.

What will the new NFL 2K games look like?

The partnership between 2K and the NFL defines the upcoming video games as “non-simulation football game experiences.”

In simpler terms, 2K won’t be able to use players’ names, team names, uniforms, or stadiums. Those rights belong exclusively to EA and Madden.

“We’re thrilled to be back in business with the NFL
 in a partnership that will span multiple video games centered on fun, approachable and social experiences. It’s exciting to bring together 2K’s expertise in creating award-winning sports games with the NFL’s renowned status as a world-class entertainment and sports organization.”

David Ismailer, President of 2K

The games could resemble the old NFL Blitz and NFL Street games, which were wildly popular in the early 2000s. However, the games won’t resemble Madden or even the old NFL 2K in the slightest.

Madden will still be the premier NFL video game maker — for now

Madden’s exclusive rights deal with the NFL allows them to be the sole provider of NFL content and its likeness in video games.

The timing of the 2K deal with the NFL, though, is interesting.

The new 2K games will be released in 2021, which happens to be the same year EA’s exclusive simulation deal with the NFL expires. If the NFL wanted, it could sign a new simulation deal with 2K once EA’s deal is up.

2K very well may be planting the seeds to steal exclusive simulation rights away from EA and thereby becoming the official simulation game of the NFL over Madden. If the new 2K football games perform well, the NFL could easily give all the power to 2K starting next year.

2K has disappointed fans lately with most recent NBA and WWE games

The most recent 2K basketball game, NBA 2K20, was released last September and received overwhelmingly negative reviews from users. The game currently has a 1.0 user score out of 10 on Metacritic.

Gamers complained about the game’s use of microtransactions. The casino feature made them feel as if the game was just a big gambling scheme.

Similarly, WWE 2K20 was crushed by fans upon release last year. It has a slightly higher 1.1 Metacritic score, but both flops signaled a down year for the 2K franchise.

Expectations will be high for 2K’s newest football video games, but the gaming company will need to outperform its latest releases if it wants to compete with Madden in the future.