It's friggin' official: EA MMA is back, baby. Today at E3, MMA fans finally got a sweet little taste of the gaming expo goodness that the Electronic Entertainment Expo provides and had their minds completely blown when Dana White walked onstage during the EA press conference and announced that EA Sports had purchased the UFC license from THQ.
Bold and italicized for effect - EA has purchased the UFC license from THQ, and they will be making UFC games for years to come.
Here's the video!
EA MMA is not dead, EA MMA is kind of like Sean Penn in We're No Angels and UFC Undisputed is like Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking...and I think we're Susan Sarandon. Here are a few choice snippets from the official EA press release:
And THQ's official release:
“We’re thrilled to begin a long-term partnership that will bring fans incredibly authentic, and deeply connected, UFC videogames,” said Andrew Wilson, EVP and Head of EA SPORTS. “UFC has become a global powerhouse because they have the world’s best fighters, competing in the world’s best mixed martial arts events. We share UFC’s passion for the sport, and we look forward to capturing all of the intensity and excitement of the action with unique new game experiences across a range of platforms.”
Zuffa has licensed to EA the UFC rights previously held by THQ, Inc. (THQI).
“We’d like to thank THQ for creating some of the most critically-acclaimed sports videogames of this console generation, and we’re excited to enter a new relationship with EA that will help us deepen our connection with fighting fans around the world,” said UFC President Dana White.
“There’s no one better at creating authentic sports videogames than EA SPORTS, and we’re excited to have a partner who shares our vision of deep, connected and multi-platform global game experiences.”
So that's it; what was hypothesized so many times over on messageboards and in our very own comment sections actually happened. But what does this mean for us?
THQ Inc. and Zuffa, LLC, today announced that they have reached an agreement to transfer THQ’s exclusive, worldwide license with Zuffa to publish videogames based on the Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC®) brand to Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA), effective today, in exchange for an undisclosed cash payment to THQ.
“Over the last three years, THQ has delivered best-in-class, all-encompassing experiences to MMA fans, sports enthusiasts and fighting gamers around the globe with its UFC Undisputed™ series. We want to thank them for their stewardship of our brand," said Lorenzo Fertitta, Chairman and CEO of Zuffa. “We look forward to joining forces with EA to leverage their sports platform, and expand our brand in the video game space.”
Brian Farrell, THQ’s Chairman and CEO, commented, “We have relished our relationship with UFC over the last several years and believe that the UFC gaming brand is in great shape. THQ’s more focused strategy moving forward meant that transferring the license to EA made sense to all parties. We would like to thank UFC for their great support and partnership and wish EA all the best moving forward.”
Well Sunday Night Fights will be back in full force, you can believe that, and now with a revitalized community (and larger install base with the UFC brand name) Live Broadcasts will have huge audiences and will have bigger and better production with a bigger and better budget and everything you would expect from EA Sports.
Stuff we should expect:
Stuff that probably won't be in the game:
- Triple A quality Live Broadcasts.
- Larger Fight Card lobbies with more features like tournament modes etc.
- Flyweight through Heavyweight weight classes.
- Randy Couture fighting in the Octagon (his likeness contract is with EA after all).
- An expanded ground game.
- Better visuals - many don't know EA MMA was built on a modified version of the Fight Night Champion engine, so expect that level of graphical fidelity.
- EA has worked with ESPN and many other media outlets for Madden and other sports franchises, so FOX broadcast presentation is completely doable.
- The WEC cage, the WFA cage, Strikeforce cage, The Pride Ring and of course: Lenne Hardt.
- A release date within 18 months. It was rumored half a year ago that development on EA never actually stopped, and we made mention of this in multiple rumor mills. With the shutting down of the EA MMA servers we took it as the final nail in the coffin - and this was actually true, had it not been for THQ's finacial dire straits and subsequent need to sell off the license we wouldn't be here right now and EA would probably be putting their money into something else. Like a Kinect water polo simulation. Now they can pick up where they left off (if they stopped) and slap the UFC fighter skins right on there. The gameplay is probably much further along then anyone outside of Tiburon realizes.
- A UFC heavy roster (obviously). Although EA may have some contracts with certain people, for space reasons alone expect lots of UFC guys but no Strikeforce and possibly very few 'legends'. It depends on the direction EA wants to go: full on Madden simulation with every single current talent, or a more history of the sport, love letter type of release, which I don't think will happen and this is why: first off, the lover letter already happened, it was called EA MMA and it didn't sell. Secondly a lot of the roster decisions (including fighter ratings) are handled by Joe Silva, not the creatives at the development studio.
- An expanded career mode (UFC 3 had a great career mode).
Stuff that would be really cool that we want in the game:
- Sakuraba, Genki or any J-MMA guy that EA couldn't get last time. These guys have some crazy iron-clad contracts for their videogame likeness in Japan and trust me - outside of a miracle it's not happening. EA has tried before and so did THQ when they were building UFC 3's roster. Why do you think Fire Pro had the made up names all the time?
- Kickboxing mode. Now that UFC has the license there's no way we would ever see anything outside of MMA inside a cage or the Pride ring.
- No Ken Shamrock, no Frank Shamrock or anyone who has a weird relationship with Dana or the UFC. That includes Fedor, even though he was in EA MMA.
That's all I can think about writing for this ground breaking announcement besides the fact that Undisputed 3 probably won't get any more updates or stat changes. If you have any more questions I can do my best to answer them on Twitter @JasonNawara.
- More cloud storage for your replays and videos.
- Social media integration like Tweeting out a fight replay.
- Streaming ability built into Fight Card mode that broadcasts to your EA MMA profile page with embedding abilities. I would pay extra for this. I would pay a lot for this.
- More MiddleEasy gear.
- It would be really cool if the DID NOT waste their time with Kinect or Move integration and just focused on releasing the greatest MMA game ever made.
- A new, non-tribal logo.
Unfortunately these things affect people, and under a bevy of press releases about the UFC/EA buyout, the San Diego THQ studio was shut down. No matter what side of the fence you are on about their product, there are two specific guys who deserve a huge shoutout for believing in the MiddleEasy: Nick Robertson who was THE dude behind the community at UFC 3 and is an overall wonderful guy with a great mustache. He trains at 10th Planet and is a must follow on Twitter on UFC nights. Secondly is Aaron Kaufman, who I believe is behind the next God of War game's community and was instrumental in building the community for UFC 1,2,3.