For the first time since 2009, college basketball could be back in a new video game release. More than 10 of the top programs in the country appear likely to be playable in 2K Sports's NBA 2K16, scheduled for a September release.
A records search with the Collegiate Licensing Company found 2K Sports has a license to make video games for the following schools: Arizona, Arizona State, Connecticut, Georgetown, Kansas, Louisville, Michigan, Texas, UCLA, Villanova and Wisconsin. These programs have been confirmed.
2K has indeed gotten the licenses to at least 10 college teams & will have college basketball.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) July 21, 2015
Self-licensing would be a departure from what schools were willing to do previously. In 2013, the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 declined to license trademarks for future EA Sports games, in large part due to self-protection from legal punishment.
A judge ruled against the NCAA in the Ed O'Bannon case a year later, finding that EA Sports had used real player likenesses without compensation.
It's unclear whether the 2K development could contribute to the eventual return of the NCAA Football series, which ended in the wake of O'Bannon.
To this point, the only apparent obstacle for college sports video games has been using player likenesses, since schools can license their own images however they want, but NCAA rules forbid player payments. That's why it's easy to speculate on how NBA 2K could have college teams without running into the same problems previous games had.
One of NBA 2K's most popular modes is called MyPlayer, which allows a gamer to play as a created character throughout an entire career. It's possible that the addition of college teams will be a feature in the MyPlayer mode, with college teammates and opponents not based on actual college players. That would allow gamers to go through college and eventual pro careers without replicating any likenesses, but with real school uniforms, logos and branding.
We reached out to 2K Sports, which declined to comment at this time.
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