In December, news surfaced that the NHL Player's Association was attempting to make a deal granting Electronic Arts the exclusive use of NHL player names in hockey games, without the consent of the NHL itself. NHL officials were upset by the NHLPA's actions, and wanted to see 2K Sports, owner of Kush and Visual Concepts' NHL 2K series, included. This week, the NHL and the NHLPA mutually announced that both EA and 2K Sports would be granted multi-year agreements to the use of all NHL/NHLPA licensed material in hockey games. So far, 2K Sports has published the only next generation hockey game, with Xbox 360 launch title NHL 2K6. Under the agreement, later this year EA will release NHL 07, and 2K Sports will release NHL 2K7.
"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," said Ken Kim, NHLPA Senior Director, Business. "NHL players are fans of these titles as well, and they, like the gamers, can't wait to see the year-to-year advances that are made to replicate the intensity of a real NHL game.
This announcement comes in contrast to recent deals regarding EA and 2K competing for sports licenses; EA currently owns the exclusive rights to publish NFL games, and 2K owns the exclusive third party rights to publish MLB games.