Holy s**t it's been an interesting few days in mma. Every time I check back in there's some major news about someone who got screwed over, or someone who got signed. It's currently way too early and way too chaotic to tell what the future holds for Strikeforce, but I think even the most optimistic fans would be reluctant to put their life savings on the future of the promotion right now. Anything can happen, and rumors circling around are just that - rumors. But no one can deny that there's a definite possibility that some of the mentioned potential problems will get the best of Strikeforce and force them to join the rest of UFC's challengers in the mma promotion graveyard. And though the demise of Strikeforce would bring with it many possible implications currently discussed on blogs and message boards, I got to thinking about EA sports upcoming MMA game in particular.
EA Sports claims that having a game license isn't everything - if the game is solid enough it can stand on it''s own legs. Fair enough. But signing Fedor clearly shows that they are banking on being able to use at least some star power to help promote the game. So what happens if Strikeforce - the last of the larger promotions in the west - bites the dust? Where are the fighters going to go? Dream? That'll be the last the vast majority of casual fans ever hear of those fighters. XMMA? What the f**k is XMMA? If Strikeforce folds there are simply no major stages left here in the west except those owned & controlled by Zuffa.
And here's where it gets interesting. Everyone got upset over the rumor that UFC threatened to ban anyone who signed on for EA's game. Even I thought it was an overly hostile move by UFC. But then I got to thinking that it might actually be a very farsighted thing to do from a business perspective. My guess was the UFC was worried that EA sports would start signing cheap promising talent - and if the UFC ever wanted to sign these fighters they'd be inadvertently promoting EA's game with every marketing dollar they spent on that fighter. EA sports could sign a multitude of cheap talent and then try to piggyback on the marketing of those UFC later sign. In fact, it's very similar the situation with Fedor: the UFC would essentially be co-promoting EA's game because they'd be promoting the fighters who are in it. From that perspective the ban actually looked sensible to me, even smart.
Most people, myself included, believe the threat of a ban is just a threat, and only something UFC will stick to as long as it makes sense financially for them. UFC is expected to sign any talent of interest from Strikeforce should they fold, but by that time many of those fighters - such as Fedor - will likely be signed to EA's game, creating the problem of involuntarily co-promoting a rival brand (as with M-1).
But what if UFC actually stays (mostly) true to their word and refuses to sign any (or most) fighters who signed with EA games - or at least refuse to let them fight before the game is released? This would make the "stars" of EA's game completely irrelevant, being only fighters who fight overseas or on small shows no one has ever heard of. In that case there's a question if it's worth it to even try to rely on any kind of star power at all - might be better to simply have fictional fighters rather than unkown fighters. If Strikeforce folds before the release of the EA's mma game it will feel out of date before it's even released - especially if it relies on star power from unemployed and/or unknown fighters.I'm pretty sure EA sports is paying very close attention to what's happening right now, and I'm equally sure they have people smarter than myself that are already considering this and many other scenarios. But as long as this scenario is a possibility, EA has to be a little nervous about paying for contracts with fighters who may have fallen out of the spotlight by the time the game is released.
And remember, EA sport has only *announced* the game at this point. No screenshots, no videos, no word on the gameplay - nothing. It's safe to say that they are very early on in the development process, and big games being canceled is far from unheard of. I believe the fate of EA's game will be strongly affected by the development of the Strikeforce/M-1 co-promotion, and I also believe there a few possible scenarios in which EA will choose to cut their losses before they are too invested in the game. I'm going to make three predictions/guesses:
- If Strikeforce folds before the release of EA Sports MMA, the game will (massively) flop
- If Strikeforce folds early enough, EA Sports will cancel the development of the game
- If there's too much uncertainty regarding the future of Strikeforce & M-1 and the rest of the non-UFC mma landscape, EA will be afraid to pull the trigger completely with the game. If it causes them to hesitate for too long they will be forced to abandon development of the game even if Strikeforce is still around (because of fear of #1).
In short, unless Strikeforce & M-1 get their s**t together, I believe EA's MMA game is far from certainty.