Rick Westhead writes a good yarn today, about the CFL's attempts to develop a computer-game version of three-down football. Sounds easy, right?
Not so. Game makers and CFL official Jim Neish say developing a CFL game costs at least $5 million (U.S.). What's more, even if the league's sponsors like Rona, Sony and WestJet Airlines helped to cover the cost of a CFL game, the league still wouldn't be home free. It simply hasn't been able to find a producer willing to take the time to invest in a CFL title.
|The virtual Vince is a real gamer.|
It doesn't take a genius to recognize how important, perhaps even essential, the sim version of the real game on the field has become (and how it sells products and helps create and market superstar athletes and perhaps even develop fans, and on and on -- where would Vince Carter be without it?). A recent survey by Mediamark Research noted that gaming is the top online activity among kids aged 6 to 11. For better or for worse, top sellers like Madden 06 have become a doorway to sports fandom.
But despite offshoots (NCAA and the non-NFL sanctioned Blitz among the football titles) and the adaptability of the technology -- on EA's NHL 2006 game, rules, scoring, lineups and other options can be adjusted (though not rink size, as far as I know) -- the CFL has yet to enter this arena even in a piggyback kind of arrangement.
These games are a money maker, but the marketers Westhead talks to aren't sure this one would be a go:
Game makers are skeptical that the CFL game would garner enough sales, especially in the U.S. market where Electronic Arts also makes a college football title, to make its development worth their while.
As someone who's just a little too old to have been around for the wave of computer games that began around 1989, when the first version of Madden arrived -- okay, I'm much too old, though I do recall being hooked on Jumpman, getting over it before Michael Jordan turned it into a trademark -- I'm probably the wrong guy to ask about this. But there's two things here that makes me pause.
The first is that you can't go cheap on something like this, you can't do it half-assed, or you end up looking silly. The second is that the conceit behind computer games is matching up against Ray Lewis or Tiger Woods or Mario Lemieux -- the biggest, baddest and best in the world. The CFL is an entertaining, wacky brand of football, but few would ever contend it's the home of the world's fastest and strongest athletes. To the gaming audience, playing a CFL computer game might well be like going up against the Nationwide Tour, or the Belfast Giants "ice hockey" team.
Still, it's hard not to wish them well and if it does ever come to pass, the payoff would be huge. As one of my regular e-mailers is never shy to point out, the CFL's TV ratings destroy the NBA in Canada. If only they could grab some of the association's video-game coolness, they'd be going somewhere quite new.