[12/14/04 - 12:00 AM]
'Playmakers' May Live on as Part of Midway's 'Blitz'
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- ESPN may have dropped the "Playmakers" ball, but videogame company Midway may be picking it up as the company confirmed on Monday its plans for "Blitz: Playmakers," the latest entry in its over-the-top football franchise.

"Enough of the 'No Fun League'... it's now time to talk about and prepare for the game the NFL wouldn't let anyone make... Blitz the way it should be played," a company spokesman told gaming portal IGN Sports.

While full details about the project weren't released, the game will share more than just the namesake of the defunct cable drama - one of the "Playmakers" writers has been hired to develop the game.

Despite said developments, neither Midway nor ESPN has confirmed any connection between the ESPN series and the Midway game.

The news comes on the same day Electronic Arts, makers of the "Madden" juggernaut, announced its exclusive five-year licensing agreement with the NFL. Said pact means that Midway (or fellow football developers ESPN, 989, and Microsoft) will no longer feature the NFL teams, stadiums, and players in its football video games. The decision also puts Midway, whose "Blitz: Playmakers" is the first post-NFL game to be confirmed, several steps ahead of its non-EA competition in terms of developing its own football brand.

And with ESPN's "Playmakers" literally being the series the NFL didn't want viewers to see, any assocation would extend that brand even further. The 11-episode drama drew the wrath of both the National Football League owners and officials of the NFL Players Assocation as each objected to the show's content.

Not wanting to risk damaging their relationship with the NFL, ESPN went ahead and gave "Playmakers" the hook back in February despite having two of television's most valued commodities: healthy ratings and critical acclaim. Mark Shapiro, ESPN's executive VP of programming and production, wasn't even shy about the network's motivations when the news broke: "Many considerations went into to this decision, not the least of which was the reaction from a longtime and valued partner. We are proud of the show on many levels - it was a creative and critical success, and we are appreciative that viewers clearly embraced this new genre on our network... so much so that we are actively engaged in pursuing our next drama."

ESPN was then reportedly approached by several other cable channels about picking up the series but opted not to continue production in order avoid any further ire by the NFL. "['Playmakers'] is our series, and as a result it will not air elsewhere," ESPN's Josh Krulewitz told USA Today at the time.

Whether Midway's "Blitz: Playmakers," which would undoubtedly build on the viewers that felt betrayed by ESPN's decision to axe the series, marks a reversal of said decision remains to be seen.

Click here to read IGN Sports' coverage of this story.

  [december 2004]  


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