The NHL and its Players Association, the NHLPA, have agreed non-exclusive, multi-year licensing extensions with both Electronic Arts and 2K Sports.
The news is particularly good for 2K Sports, a division of Take-Two, which had looked to be frozen out of the NHL deal after the NHLPA announced an exclusivity deal with EA last year.
That prompted the NHL to issue stern rhetoric to the effect that it would not be party to any such arrangement, threatening to put NHL licensed games out of commission for a season or more - ironically, a situation that mirrored the NHL's decision to cancel the 2004-2005 season of the competition due to the threat of strike action from players unwilling to accept a salary cap.
Under the terms of the deal announced this week, both EA and 2K will release new NHL games soon. NHL '07 from EA and NHL 2K7 are both due out on current and next-generation console formats - with the former likely to headline on Xbox 360 and the latter likely to appear to coincide with the launch of PlayStation 3.
Both NHL and NHLPA executives applauded the deal in a statement, but in keeping with the flavour of the arrangement it was NHL's Senior Vice President of Consumer Product Marketing Brian Jennings who played up the importance of offering fans choice. "NHL fans and consumers want more choices and extending our relationships with EA Sports and 2K Sports offers them the ability to choose the quality games they want to play," he said. "Video gaming technology is increasing our younger fans' abilities to connect with the personalities and athletic abilities of our players. And both EA Sports and 2K Sports have world-class development teams that successfully design games that continuously enhance that connection."
Ken Kim, NHLPA Senior Director, Business, was less specific. "We're excited to extend our relationship with EA and 2K Sports since they have long been on the cutting edge of the sports gaming category, and are now leading the way in the development of next generation, three-dimensional gaming," he intoned.