May 28, 2024

It feels like this may be the “final” moment to wishcast a bit since EA is planning to reveal at least some aspects of EA Sports College Football 25 on Thursday. With that in mind, I have to say that making recruiting great should be one of the top priorities for EA Sports College Football 25.

We can point to graphics or gameplay or even just dynasty mode in general as things that “need” to be great, but if I want to get a bit more granular, a great recruiting system would be one of the best ways EA could win over fans. Now, I will say I think the recruiting system that was in NCAA Football 14 was a lot of fun at the time, and it’s still fun today. It’s not the most in-depth or crazy system, but it’s easy enough to have a good time or institute rules to make it harder for yourself, and obviously it’s amazing (like most things) when you play online with friends and battle for top recruits.

But will it be enough if the recruiting system in EA Sports College Football 25 is just a copy and paste from NCAA Football 14? To me, I would say “no” to that question. I’m not overly bullish on any year-one sports game that’s coming back from the grave because re-creating all these systems and updating them for the modern era is impossible in a sense. Nostalgia is so strong that a lot of the complaints we had about dynasty mode or recruiting at the time — and there were plenty — get glossed over a bit with time and nostalgia taking hold. At this point, we probably think too highly of the recruiting system that was in ’14, but we still should expect more from recruiting than just a “copy and paste” from the past.

The “scarier” outcome is if EA just takes a portion of Madden’s franchise mode system and tries to retrofit it to the college game. It’s not a one-to-one comparison for what that could even mean, but the point is the depth in any part of Madden’s franchise mode in terms of scouting/drafting/etc. is not equivalent or up to the level that needs to be a priority for recruiting in EA Sports College Football 25. I would argue those elements of Madden’s franchise mode are all clear weaknesses, and recruiting can’t be a weakness within dynasty mode in EA Sports College Football 25.

One reason I believe recruiting is so important revolves around the talk about the most played game modes in sports games. It sometimes turns into a chicken or egg argument for why X mode ends up being played more often than another. Are franchise modes going down in playtime because users just don’t care as much about that experience, or are they going down because those modes are simply stagnant or not improving fast enough to keep people engaged year to year? I know how most OS folks would answer that question, but my point is that dynasty mode takes on more importance here than even a franchise mode does in Madden.

I don’t think any other licensed sports game has to rely as much on its franchise/dynasty mode as a college game does. Ultimate Team is going to exist in EA Sports College Football 25, and there’s going to be a lot of real players on the current teams (on top of having all the current schools), but the college game is still fundamentally different than the games based on pro leagues we otherwise play. The roster churn is constant, and just about any “real” player who is in the college game will not be in it after 4-5 years in your dynasty mode.

Ohio State's Brutus Buckeye Mascot standing with his hand extended out.

There is also an element of legacy and care about a college team in any given year that I believe runs deeper than most when compared to the pro games. It’s not that a Minnesota Vikings fan doesn’t love his team, but the bond that a fan has with a Justin Jefferson over what could end up being a 10-year span is inherently going to be stronger than a bond a Michigan Wolverines fan has with a J.J. McCarthy. That Wolverines fan will still appreciate McCarthy from his two-year starting run, but the tie is still going to be more to the university or the aura of game day at Michigan Stadium than it will be to McCarthy.

I think this is ultimately a good thing for video games. It’s one of the various reasons that made me write in the past about why I think college sports are the best sports video games. College sports have unique traits that make them good fodder for video games. The college game — especially college football games — have such low-hanging fruit in some regards to create a fun sports game. The atmosphere, the character, the traditions, the songs, there’s so many little pieces of flair that can make a college football game more easily stand out when compared to an NFL game.

The same goes for recruiting. EA should absolutely have a better NFL Draft, free agency system, scouting system, etc. but recruiting imaginary players in a college game is still more important than any of that stuff found in Madden.

ea sports college football

To put it another way, an NFL team is not made any one way. You can make your team better or worse through many different avenues. You can technically screw up the draft, make a bad trade, hire a bad coach, or make poor moves in free agency during any given year and still be fine. You can also just draft a Patrick Mahomes and be good for many, many years even if you make tons of other mistakes. In terms of a college football video game, the same does not apply to recruiting. You might be able to have a weak class if your stars are already in place, but the point is there are not many other avenues to get better. On top of that, your stars are not going to be around for a decade or longer like top-end QBs will be for NFL franchises.

But if we look at the “weakness” of a college football video game versus the potential strengths of an NFL video game, there’s not many other ways to make the week-to-week experience feel as enjoyable in the college game as the pro game. We don’t have things like trades or “contracts” in the traditional sense. Yes, we will have a transfer portal and some other new elements, but outside of something like a robust practice or game plan system — again, something that should probably be better in Madden — there’s only so much off-the-field stuff to do in a college game. I don’t think we’re going to have to worry about academics or other issues like that with the players on our team, so the onus really does fall on recruiting.

Ultimately, this is why recruiting should be such a focus. If the game is not “fun” off the field, all we’ll have is the gameplay. And, yeah, if the gameplay is great then the game is still going to be a good time within dynasty mode, but it’s not going to be well received. There is a reason why one of the most popular threads in the EA Sports College Football forum on OS is about “talking about recruiting” and what people want to see from it. I’ve even seen a thread pop up that is all about hoping EA will give people a way to recruit via an app, which does seem like a somewhat reasonable request considering back in the day EA did have something like that in the form of being able to do your recruiting on its website.

All of this just points to why recruiting is so important for EA Sports College Football 25. We should expect games to evolve and be better than their predecessors, but we also need to remember that certain things should not change. Recruiting was the most fun thing to do in dynasty mode in NCAA Football 14, so it should be the most fun thing to do in dynasty mode in EA Sports College Football 25.