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The search for a CFL-inspired game: challenges and opportunities

Although some sports like soccer have achieved a truly global fanbase, once you look into specific, regional sporting preferences, you begin to understand the clear distinctions and difficulties that organizations can face. In the United Kingdom, soccer is the most prominent sport by far, with tens of millions of people watching it every weekend. In the United States, the most popular sports include the NBA and NFL, both of which see millions of people tuning in every week.

In Canada, the main sport is ice hockey, which a large section of the population enjoys, and because of the country’s climate, winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding are also prevalent. You can often tell just how popular a sport is by looking at the gambling markets in the buildup to and during a game. The NFL markets see a huge movement in America, especially during the Super Bowl, and Canada is the same during the Stanley Cup – although maybe not to the same extent.

The gaming library of online casinos will reflect the popularity of sports betting markets, so ice hockey reigns supreme in Canada, with a small but modest CFL market. The roles are reversed in the US, with NHL betting playing second fiddle to the might of American football and basketball.

Issues that Canadian football faces

American football has crossed the border and had some marginal success. Still, it has created a split for those fans who simply choose to watch the NFL instead of the Canadian Football League. The CFL is considered of decent standard but second-tier compared to the big leagues south of the border, so those fans who actually enjoy watching football will often tune in to the NFL instead of the CFL, which is another headache for those trying to stimulate and inspire Canadian football fans to get behind their own national league. Although some elements of NFL team strategy have been taken from the CFL of late, the global audience for the NFL simply isn’t there for Canadian football, which has unfortunately been the case for generations.

Not only does the sport have a smaller audience but this audience is split between the NFL and CFL, so the target audience for a CFL-inspired game is a subdivision of a niche market – the proverbial box within a box. Once you unpack these issues, it becomes evident why the idea of a CFL-inspired game has suffered multiple stalling points throughout the years. Still, some fans are more optimistic that a brighter future exists.

Some positives to consider

Canadian football is low down the pecking order when it comes to popular sports in Canada. However, because the internet has brought together more significant communities of people, it’s a lot easier to sample the population size and build a reasonably clear picture of how many people would be interested in a CFL video game. Therefore, if the sentiment for a CFL-inspired game grows, it’ll be a lot easier for game designers and marketers to gauge the appetite for it on social media and get the wheels in motion.

EA Sports, for example, has an extensive selection of sports games available. However, they still need to be careful about what games they decide to make, given that it costs money and time, and they’re still laying off some of their workforce, which would suggest their finances are tighter than many people suspect.

Final thoughts

In the future, who knows whether they might be able to market a CFL game or at least a sports game that covers the top tier of Canadian football alongside other Canadian sports? The best course of action might be to create a game that combines several elements within the Canadian gaming industry instead of focusing on one particular game.

Ultimately, there have to be more people watching and discussing CFL before any game designer will look to make a feature game. It feels like a lifetime since the last CFL-inspired game was released in 1999, and EA Sports doesn’t look any closer to making one.

Their argument over the years has been that NFL Madden covers the scope of both countries, allowing you to create your own teams and players. So, if you feel the need, you can do this yourself. However, for a standalone game, there are simply not enough fans to warrant the cost and production of a game that would take millions to develop and market.

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Priyanka Chaudhary
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