College Sports Are the Ultimate Sports Video Games

March Clark Madness ended yesterday and UConn goes for the back-to-back tonight, and we’re just around a month away from EA revealing EA Sports College Football 25 to all of us, so it feels like the right time to remind everyone that college sports are the ultimate sports video games.

It’s easy to forget, but at this point we have an entire generation of people who have never played a college sports video game. In the 10-plus years we’ve been waiting for college sports to return, a lot has changed with video games and college sports, but the reasons why video games and college sports mix together so well remain the same.

College Sports Are The Ultimate Sports Video Games

Recruiting Is The Key

Recruiting is the Rosetta Stone to this whole argument. It explains so much about why college sports work because while it is just one aspect of one mode in these games, it acts as an explainer for why these games have such a leg up on their pro counterparts.

You compete for recruits. You build your team around recruits. The shorter seasons mean you’re basically always recruiting for next year. And these recruits are all fake after a certain point. Recruiting is the basis for so much of the variety that exists in college sports video games. It’s the sort of variety pro games can never match because, well, it takes many years for the pro leagues to be filled with the same amount of fake players.

Yes, you can create fictional leagues to get around this, but that’s a lot of work, and it’s not real either. There is an inherent knowledge we have about pro teams that is hard to shake, regardless of how much we try to pretend it’s not there. LeBron James has been playing for 21 seasons. Patrick Mahomes has been playing for seven seasons. These sorts of players just linger over everything, even in our video games. That sort of issue does not exist in college video games. Anywhere from one year to maybe five years (I guess six in some cases) is all we have to worry about before the entire league is fresh. Everything is a clean slate after a certain point with only the pageantry and history of the schools themselves sticking around.

Shorter Is Better

Here’s another way to think about it, let’s talk about season lengths:

-A college football season is roughly 13 games on the high end. An NFL season is a minimum of 17 games.

-A college basketball season is 40 games on the high end. An NBA season is at least 82 games.

-A college baseball season is around 55 games before the postseason. An MLB season is 162 games.

You can sometimes get to the end of a 162 game MLB season and then return the next season with roughly 75 percent of the same roster. No matter how much you love playing MLB games, that does wear on you. Even if 162 games wasn’t already a slog, it’s a lot to ask of yourself to continue playing without a heavy dose of simulating to get things moving.

I can sum it up with the tried and true saying of “variety is the spice of life” but college sports vs. pro sports is really a supreme example of why shortening everything just helps in video games. And it’s fascinating to me because, look, I don’t really like college sports. I would much rather watch MLB, NBA, or NFL games over their college counterparts. I’m not trying to say everyone is like that, but this is just to make the point that even with my biases, I recognize that college sports video games are the supreme video game.

ea sports college football 25

Intangibles Matter

One other way to look at this that’s a little less tangible is I do think college sports video games just have to be better than their pro counterparts. I do think the NFL or NBA sells the video games themselves in a way that college sports can’t lean on the same way. This year that won’t be true because everyone just is starving for any college video game, but make no mistake that EA Sports College Football 2025 is the only version that’s going to get a pass on quality to some extent. After this year, if the game isn’t good it won’t sell as well as the NFL game. It has to be good in a way Madden never has to be in order to continue to be successful.

We’ve seen this before with how College Hoops 2K ultimately still wasn’t worth making to 2K Sports even though it was a great game. Quality alone still isn’t always enough to generate year-to-year sales, but if the games aren’t great then they have no shot.

And with the hardcore folks out there, there’s even a level of authenticity that developers can reach in these college games that can’t be reached in pro games. Yes, both can mimic broadcast presentation, but college fight songs and chants and all the other college chaos is so much easier to license and recreate than having to get the walk-up music for 900-plus MLB players or get all the licensed music that is played in each NBA arena to fill out that soundscape.

ea sports college football 25

It’s easier to make a unique stadium experience when you’re 100,000 strong at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge rather than making a nearly empty Bank of America Stadium feel unique for a late-season Carolina Panthers game. It doesn’t mean it’s easy to create those college experiences, but it’s easier to know what you’re shooting for while knowing it will be cheaper to acquire the licensing necessary to make all those special moments pop at those college games.

I know there’s so many people out there at this point who have never played a college sports game, so they might have trouble believing some of what I’ve written — and that’s understandable. But I hope everyone gives EA Sports College Football 25 a shot even if they barely watch college football just so they can experience this phenomenon first hand and then start banging the drum for more college video games to return to our lives.