What EA SPORTS UFC 4’s Quick Announce + Release Could Mean for NHL 21 (and other sports games)

an early screenshot from UFC 4 from EA SPORTS

This morning (Saturday, July 11, 2020), EA SPORTS officially revealed UFC 4 to the masses. The trailer is very much sizzle but what caught my eye (outside of the obvious tease that we’re probably going to see a new Fight Night game in the near future) was that they revealed the game on July 11 with a launch on August 14, 2020 – that’s just over a month away. This is a really interesting move and one I think could spell the change of how some sports games are marketed moving forward.

If you put sports games on one of those Tier Lists of importance, no question that FIFA, Madden NFL, and NBA 2K are on the top of that list. They are incredibly mainstream and can warrant a slightly longer ramp-up cycle prior to launch. I don’t suspect they will shy too much from their three-month build-up cycle because they have the audience that will consume and critique the content build up until those respective games launch to the public.

But below that tier, are the other guys, which very much includes the likes of EA SPORTS UFC and EA SPORTS NHL. There isn’t the need for a game like UFC 4 to have a long ramp to launch because it’s not as wildly as popular. UFC 4 isn’t reinventing the sport in any sort of drastic way and from the available previews, it sounds like a lot of the improvements from the last game as behind the scenes (not any sort of graphic overhaul or the introduction of new major modes)

I suspect the same push will happen for EA SPORT’s NHL series. It’s nowhere near as popular as its small and dedicated community think it is and doesn’t need a long ramp before gamers get their hands on it.

My created player taking a wrist shot in NHL 20

Over the last multiple years, NHL video games are typically revealed in June with a September launch. We’re now well into July and there hasn’t even been a tease for the upcoming game. My initial thoughts were that NHL 21 was going to get a delay, especially considering the fact that the real NHL season isn’t over and won’t probably finish until mid-September at the earliest.

Yes, NHL 21 could still very much be delayed but now I’m thinking that it could be using the same marketing strategy that UFC 4 is implementing. If the NHL restart does start on August 1, it would make sense for EA SPORTS to reveal NHL 21 alongside at the same time and follow it up with “launches September 15, 2020”.

On top of that, I don’t suspect NHL 21 is going to be a huge change from NHL 20. I also don’t think NHL 21 is being optimized for PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. They may offer a visual upgrade in 2021 but that’s about it.

What EA SPORTS UFC 4's Quick Announce + Release Could Mean for NHL 21 (and other sports games)

The only downside to the marketing thus far is the lack of consumable content on the game’s official site. The UFC 4 pages on ea.com are pretty bare and don’t give me the information I’d be craving as a fan. So far everything I’ve really learned about the game is through video game news sites like Game Informer, GameSpot, and Polygon.

Googling “UFC 4” should have the ea.com site at the top…it’s not and at the time of me writing this, it’s near the bottom of the first page. That’s a miss in my books and hopefully something the address in the coming weeks.

This is an interesting move by EA general and kind of a reversal of sorts. When I was EA SPORTS, there was a clear move towards having the game’s site be the official source for news about our sports games. If they are going back towards relying on traditional gaming sites to give gamers information on the games, I wonder if that’s a smart move?

Anthony Joshua in UFC 4
This definitely means we’ll be seeing a new Fight Night in 2021

In any case, I am very much looking forward to seeing UFC 4 in action. If anyone I know still works for the EA SPORTS UFC Marketing team in Vancouver and is reading this, don’t be shy and please hook up an old friend with an early copy of the game. 🙂