A Marriage Made in Sports Heaven

Posted by jgaudiosi :: Sports & Video Games

Nba_2Next generation consoles Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are having a deep impact when it comes to integrating ESPN content into EA Sports games. The first game to truly merge the virtual sports world with the real sports world is "NBA Live 07," which will feature ESPN Motion clips of 20 minutes or longer within the game. That's on top of ESPN Radio, a live ticker and ESPN.com content all built within the game world. But this is just the beginning of innovations, as EA and ESPN are in the first year of a 15-year exclusive licensing deal.

A new user interface will be used across all of the EA Sports titles this year, which will create an ESPN section of the game. It's here that ESPN content from TV, radio, and the Internet can be accessed by gamers. In future versions of EA Sports games, this type of content will be blended more seamlessly into the game world. The possibilities are endless, once rights issues for video clips are cleared from the various leagues.

While up-to-the-minute scrolling ESPN tickers are a reality today, along with ESPN Radio updates every 20 minutes, down the line, a videogame half-time show could be a real "SportsCenter." The ability to watch clips this year of NBA highlights in "NBA Live 07" will eventually lead to video clips of other leagues within the NBA game. In essence, the sports gamer will be able to get a complete ESPN fix without ever leaving the videogame world.

Just think of the advertising upside of this for ESPN. In addition to its devoted fan base on TV, radio, the Internet and in magazine form, EA Sports games will sell millions of copies each year and open another window to 18 to 34 year-old gamers. The stickiness of sports games, which can be played online, is among the highest of any game genre.

What begins this year with "NBA Live 07" will migrate to other EA Sports games. There may even be ESPN video on other fall sports releases, although EA has not announced anything yet. If not, next year will usher in even more ESPN programming opportunities. The always-on next generation consoles make this type of integration between traditional and linear entertainment companies possible.

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