Here’s a conspiracy theory for you (someone call Jesse Ventura): is EA Sports MMA intentionally going to stink in order for EA Sports to lose the Strikeforce license and later acquire the UFC license? Let’s see.
So here’s the gist of it, as I just read in this week’s Wrestling Observer: EA Sports doesn’t like to be number two in anything. There’s a feeling that, no matter how “good” EA Sports MMA is, it’s not going to outsell UFC Undisputed 2009 or the upcoming UFC Undisputed 2010, which will debut at the Spike TV Video Game Awards on December 12. (Rival publisher THQ is responsible for the Undisputed games.)
Why won’t EA Sports MMA outsell UFC Undisputed? I can think of a few reasons. One, in a lot of people’s minds, MMA = UFC. An MMA promotion other than UFC will be seen by these people as second-rate. So why buy a second-rate game?
But that’s out of EA’s hands. What is in EA’s hands is things like fighter selection, and apparently the people in charge of fighter selection are “hardcore” MMA fans, which is fine if that’s what you’re trying to do: appease hardcore MMA fans. The thing is, how many hardcore MMA fans are there versus the average guy who’ll watch a UFC show once a month with his friends while killing some beer and pizza? You can’t outsell an established franchise like UFC Undisputed if you’re purposely leaving out gigantic names like Gina Carano (there’s a no female fighter policy in effect for EA Sports MMA).
Put someone like Carano on the cover and it’ll sell many copies. Fact.
So here’s where the conspiracy comes into play. Maybe EA knows this. Maybe it knows that there’s no way in hell EA Sports MMA is going to outsell UFC Undisputed, and it’s cool with that. Why? THQ’s license agreement with UFC runs out next year (I guess it was for two games). EA, which has a tremendous amount of money at its disposal, could then go to UFC and say, “Look, we’re EA. We’re big time. Undisputed did well, but with our muscle at your disposal, we’ll make a UFC game so incredibly huge that you’d be a fool to stick with THQ. Also, here’s several truckloads of money to help sweeten the deal.”
And then EA has for itself what could be the biggest, most lucrative sports license in the coming years.
This all depends on the EA-UFC dynamic, of course. We all know that UFC approached EA several years ago, before the creation of Undisputed, and that EA basically told UFC to take a hike because UFC wasn’t a “real” sport.
A hit TV show and several successful pay-per-views later, and EA is all, “Hey, UFC. Let’s do lunch.”