Like thousands of other college football fans, Alex and Kameron Lewis are tired of waiting around for EA Sports to bring back its “NCAA Football” franchise.
So, the Mobile, Ala., natives are resurrecting it themselves.
The Lewis cousins spent much of early 2016 poring through legal documents, license estimates and feasibility checklists before deciding that, yes, they can create create their own college football game to satisfy a niche market that’s been dormant since EA’s most recent “NCAA Football” release in 2013.
Currently in “pre-development,” the Lewis’ untitled video game will need to meet a funding goal of roughly $850,000 (a Kickstarter campaign is slated for Sept. 2) and is tentatively scheduled for a 2019 release date.
A long way off, sure, but that’s more than EA Sports — tangled up in a complicated political and legal web — has promised its fans.
Alex, a 23-year-old communications and graphic design graduate of Troy University, and Kameron, a 24-year-old software engineering student at Bishop State community college, founded IMV Gaming to fill the gap. They currently pay a four-person staff that includes two YouTube “influencers” and a pair of game developers, one stateside and one in Germany.
But there’s an intimidating barrier to entry in the college gaming world: licensing.
EA Sports used a blanket license to include all FBS schools’ logos, uniforms, stadiums, etc. in its video games. Visual Concepts, the company behind the critically and commercially successful 2K series, brokered individual deals with 10 schools — including Michigan, Texas and UCLA — as part of its NBA 2K16 release last fall.
IMV Gaming can’t afford to obtain individual licenses from major schools, Alex said — he claims such an agreement with Alabama, for instance, would cost $200,000 — and eventually will need to strike an agreement with the NCAA or major conferences to bring an authentic playing experience to life.
That’s where the aforementioned crowdfunding goal of $850,000 comes in. It will help the Lewis cousins hire a competent development team while moving them closer to a spot at the negotiating table.
“Without money,” Alex said, “you don’t have a voice.”
IMV might start small with licensing. Potential agreements with junior colleges or Division II conferences could be an option to “have something in the game people can relate to,” Alex said, while the company works on the bigger fish.
To appease fans, IMV’s plan is to use crowdsourcing to determine specific gameplay features.
“With us being in the community for so long, we’ve gotten a pretty good gauge of what the community needs and wants in a game,” Alex said.
That could include a more in-depth take on EA Sports’ “Road To Glory” — a mode in which players can take over an individual star and choose whether to attend classes or party all week — and taking user requests for an update to EA’s classic “Dynasty” mode.
“We’re willing to listen,” Alex said. “And I think that’s what makes us different.”
There seems to be an audience waiting. “NCAA Football 14” sold more than 100,000 copies in July 2013, and the Internet exploded in January when EA’s official Facebook page posted a hint that — after a $60 million court loss for use of former college football players’ likenesses — the game might return.
It was a false alarm, but it spurred the Lewis cousins to forge their own path.
Before that, Alex said, “It was one of those things that you just talk about, and you never really do anything about.”
Now, IMV Gaming is the only company publicly making strides toward a a new college football video game, and impatient fans are more than welcome to join them.
“All we’re asking is for people to be honest with us,” Alex said. “Give us your feedback. Give us your opinion. And we’ll go on a journey.”
— IMV Gaming (@IMVGAMING) August 9, 2016
NOTE: The original version of this story stated that Electronic Arts possessed a blanket license through 2019. However, a recent lawsuit disallowed EA from continuing its exclusive NCAA license until 2019, allowing other developers — ex. Visual Concepts or IMV Gaming — to pair up with the NCAA.