SBD/May 15, 2014/Media

EA Sports' "NHL 15" Makes Most Of NBC Partnership To Create TV Feel For Videogame

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EA's "NHL 15" will strive to capture the look and feel of hockey on TV with a new NBC Sports broadcast package, featuring network-branded graphics, title cards and fonts, as well as commentary from the net’s Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk. EA Sports last week unveiled details for its September release of "NHL 15," which will be the franchise’s first title for the new generation of consoles. After years of focusing on improving gameplay, the EA development team put its attention on achieving more realistic presentation. The game’s relationship with NBC began with the introduction of an “NBC Matchup” mode for last year's version, which allowed gamers to play the upcoming NHL on NBC Game of the Week or NBCSN Wednesday Night Rivalry game. NBC's integration into "NHL 15" will feature more prominent branding and visual elements across all game modes. Terms of the two-year NBC-EA deal were not disclosed, but a video game studio typically will pay a rights fee. NBC Sports Group VP/Program Integration Rob Sawyer stressed the “coveted gaming demographic” that the net hopes to reach.

PEACOCK PRESENCE: EA staffers sat in NBC production trucks during several NHL games to get a feel for how and when the net employs its graphics and when it uses its various camera angles. Sawyer said NBC allowed EA “carte blanche” access to its visual elements. Whenever NBC’s broadcast production staff updated a graphic for TV, they immediately sent it along to EA. "NHL 15" Lead Producer Sean Ramjagsingh and Sawyer believe the result will be a gaming experience that feels like playing an NHL on NBC broadcast. Sawyer added that having seen game renderings, he anticipates the EA-NBC deal eventually being renewed.

IT'S IN THE GAME, LITERALLY: Ramjagsingh and Sawyer both stressed the importance of EA signing Emrick and Olczyk to be the voices of the game. EA’s deals with Emrick and Olczyk are separate from the EA-NBC arrangement, but are seen by the studio and the network as an integral part of the relationship. The most notable presentation change will be integration of the talent in a way Ramjagsingh said has “never been seen before in a sports game.” Ramjagsingh: “We said, ‘What if we actually take the commentators, the real-life commentators, record them on a green screen, and then drop them into our virtual environment? Does that work? Can we merge the virtual with reality?’” The result will see the duo delivering telecast intros in the game’s virtual NBC studio environment.

BETWEEN THE BENCHES: The game also will include a between-the-benches commentator, similar to the role Pierre McGuire holds on NBC national telecasts. EA, however, chose to sign TSN’s Ray Ferraro for the role. While Ferraro’s visual likeness will not be included, Emrick and Olczyk will often ask Ferraro for perspective during gameplay. EA went with Ferraro due to his proximity to EA’s Vancouver studios -- which makes him more accessible to the game’s development team during the season -- and his appeal to the game's large Canadian fan base. Ramjagsingh: “I could call up Ray and say, ‘Ray, massive trade just happened in the NHL. Can you come in here for an hour on your way to wherever you’re going? I want to capture one hour of content, you talking about ‘X’ situation that happened in the real world of hockey.’ So then we can make content like that live in a timely fashion.”
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NBC, EA Sports, NHL

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