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For some sports fans, nothing compares to college hoops. The atmosphere, the rivalries, March Madness — somebody should really take the NCAA Basketball experience and turn it into a video game!

Well, somebody did. At one time, EA Sports and 2K Sports released college basketball games annually, same as the rest of their sports portfolios. Even before that, a handful of other developers took a shot at NCAA hoops in the 90s, too, almost universally to little fanfare and lackluster results.

But there hasn’t been ANY attempt to make a college hoops game since EA released NCAA Basketball 10 in 2009—and probably not for the reason you might think.

Lawsuits Not Behind NCAA Basketball’s Absence

Many sports game fans no doubt recall the lawsuits that got EA to drop its popular NCAA Football series—but that was not the concern for NCAA Basketball.

In 2009, the first of several lawsuits was filed by former college athletes against Electronic Arts and the NCAA for using their likenesses in video games without providing compensation. While players’ names didn’t appear in NCAA-licensed games due to NCAA rules preventing amateur athletes from being paid, rosters traditionally consisted of nameless avatars who just happened to have the same jersey numbers, heights, weights, skin tones, hair colors, home states, and more as their real-life college counterparts. What an incredible coincidence!

The first domino to fall from those lawsuits came in 2013 when EA settled one such case for $20 million and agreed to stop making college games. That year’s release of NCAA Football 14 was the last.

But EA Sports’ last college hoops release was four years earlier, well before the lawsuit had any impact. And 2K bowed out even sooner with its final edition of College Hoops 2K8 released in 2007, well before any threat of legal peril.

So it’s safe to say it wasn’t about any lawsuits.

The Real Reason There’s No NCAA Basketball Game

It all boils down to simple dollars and cents. EA and 2K axed their college basketball games because they weren’t performing at the cash register.

Some estimates put sales of EA Sports’ NCAA Basketball 10 at just over 150,000 units across all platforms—and it’s worth mentioning again it was not up against a competing game from 2K Sports that year. Reliable sales data for College Hoops 2K8 wasn’t immediately available, but we can safely conclude it wasn’t discontinued because it was a best seller or money maker.

The truth of the matter is while those franchises were by no means bad, they weren’t given the same attention from devs as EA Sports’ and 2K’s NBA products. And that too is with perfectly good reason—while millions of Americans become invested in March Madness for roughly three weeks of the year, the sport’s popularity otherwise is nowhere near that of any of the major pro leagues, or even college football for that matter, not to mention golf and combat sports.

Whatever their exact rationale, both sports games companies, independently of one another, decided the market wasn’t there.

Hope for NCAA Basketball Game?

To be clear, there is no reported NCAA basketball video game currently in the works from either Electronic Arts, 2K Sports, or anybody else that we know of.

But if you’re searching for a silver lining here, it’s the path to making such a game recently became easier. In 2021, the United States Supreme Court ruled the NCAA legally could not prevent its athletes from receiving compensation for the use of their name and likeness.

It’s definitely no coincidence EA Sports announced just prior to that ruling it was reviving its College Football franchise, with the first entry in the rebooted series set to arrive in 2024.

An NCAA Basketball release might make sense for EA, who’s been out of the basketball scene entirely for five years, or for 2K, which could use the NBA 2K series as the backbone for a new college hoops game again. With interest in women’s basketball also seemingly at an all-time high right now, too, one might wonder if their inclusion could further enhance the appeal of a new release.

It seems likely somebody at some point will recognize a college hoops video game would generate some degree of enthusiasm, especially after we’ve gone so long without one. However, an annual release might be permanently off the table given how that worked out in the past.