I hope Michael sees this article when he gets back from Texas!
The "holy grail" of Canadian Football League fans is a computer or console game based on the Canadian league. At one point it looked like it might happen, but the project apparently never materialized. Let's face it, when you have the choice of rabid American football fans (NFL and college) out of a population of 300 million people and a dedicated core of Canadian fans, who find themselves outnumbered by NFL fans in Toronto and Vancouver, in a country of about 35 million, it's not hard to see why no one has bothered to create a CFL Playstation or X-Box game.
I always figured that the best option was someone doing a "World Football" title, capturing the CFL, NFL Europe, and arena football. This would be a "curiousity" title, but it could happen. I even had a little hope last year with the NFL football licensing controversy.
What controversy, you ask? In 2004 ESPN came out with a budget football console game. Brand new, ESPN NFL 2K5 sold for US$20. It was laughed at by the leader in the computer/console sports game world, Electronic Arts. After all, the game to play was their Madden football franchise, which sold for about twice as much new. They stopped laughing pretty quick when it turned out that the ESPN game was actually better than Madden 2005. (Yes, the 2005 game was out in 2004. Computer and console sports games are dated like car model years.) ESPN football did very well, indeed. Logan and I have been playing it a lot in the last couple of weeks. He's taken a huge shine to football all of a sudden. I have Madden from 2003, which I bought used when we got the PS2, and while it allows Logan to play the Saints while I play the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe (and the game play is a bit more forgiving), we keep returning to the better graphics of the ESPN game.
Okay, so what's the controversy? Last year, the NFL signed an exclusivity license with EA. Now the only NFL football game you can buy is an EA game (Madden and their NFL Street series). ESPN was shut out. This will continue at least until something like 2010. This is unfortunate for everyone except EA (who have a monopoly) and the NFL (who got a boatload of cash for the license).
Anyway, my hope was that maybe ESPN could try for an arena league game, and maybe grab the rights to the CFL while they were at it. I would prefer they throw NFL Europe in there, too, but it's tied up in the NFL license.
That hasn't materialized yet, but another game has. Matrix Games is known for their computer wargames. They create niche games for a niche market. Kids would rather play Halo than recreate Gettysburg, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for a Gettysburg sim. The same can be said about sports, apparently.
Matrix Games has a game called Maximum Football. It is not intended to replace console games. Instead, it's intended for players to handle the role of a coach, setting play books, drafting, creating the starting line up, etc. It's a serious simulation view of the game of football.
(Aside: sports simulations have been around for years. Classic wargame publisher Avalon Hill had football, baseball, and racing games. Their most famous is Statis-Pro Football, which is still sought after by fans. Folks are still developing up-to-date statistics cards for the long out-of-print game. Then there's the simulation company SPI who took "football as simulation" to greater lengths. In their magazine Strategy and Tactics they once included the game Scrimmage. This was football done as a skirmish wargame. It could take you half an hour to an hour to play out the results of a single play! Football is the inspiration for a number of less "realistic" games. Games Workshop has Blood Bowl, a fantasy game based loosely on the gridiron game, and Milton Bradley did Battle Ball: The Future of Football a couple of years ago. It's essentially a sci-fi version of Blood Bowl.)
The interesting aspect about Maximum Football is the customization that you can do with it. You can decide the field size, the number of downs, the size of your league, all of this.
For CFL fans, it gets better. The game comes pre-loaded with the rules and the playbooks from the NFL, the arena league... and the Canadian Football League!
This is the game I've been waiting for!
Of course, every silver lining has a cloud. The game requires 512 MB of memory and 128 MB video card (not integrated video, is what it says). Our desktop only has 512 MB of memory, and an integrated video card. To play it on that we'd have to get a video card. The laptop also has integrated video, but it at least has 1 GB of RAM, so it might run the game just fine. On the other hand, it's apparently a processing hog, so that worries me.
For anyone interested in the game, the information is found here: http://www.matrixgames.com/games/game.asp?gid=301
I checked the forum. The game is relatively new, with comments starting in May of this year. Perhaps not surprisingly, a lot of the comments are from CFL fans, and a lot of work has been done on CFL rosters.
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