Titles planned for release starting this Fall under the new ESPN Videogames brand will include: "ESPN NFL Football," "ESPN NBA Basketball," "ESPN NHL Hockey" and "ESPN College Hoops." These games will be available for the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system and the XboxTM videogame system from Microsoft®.
"ESPN World Series® Baseball" is also planned for release.
"With ESPN Videogames, sports gamers will experience the same level of fun, realism and competition that they know and demand from the '2K' games, but with an all new presentation and attitude only ESPN can help us deliver," said Greg Thomas, president of Visual Concepts Entertainment. "We are making great game changes this year and players can look forward to seeing the new ESPN integration and innovative features not only this Fall, but year after year."
"We've only scratched the surface with this relationship. The possibilities are endless for how we can continue to enhance the sports gaming experience with ESPN Videogames," said Rick Alessandri, senior vice president and general manager, ESPN Enterprises. "The new branding and further integration is just the first step, with so many more improvements and ground-breaking features to come."
New ESPN Features, ESPN Talent Performing Commentary
The enhancements in the 2004 line-up of ESPN Videogames don't stop with the new names - they will be jam-packed with new features and updates that truly take advantage of the ESPN alliance. Visual Concepts' sports games have always been heralded for having the most complete and realistic commentary in the industry. Now, ESPN Videogames will feature innovative commentary with the inclusion of ESPN talent in the games. ESPN veteran Chris Berman will provide commentary and re-caps reported from a re-created SportsCenter studio in "ESPN NFL Football" during pre-game, half-time and post-game, while Gary Thorne and Bill Clement will handle the play-by-play and color in "ESPN NHL Hockey," thus further blurring the lines between an ESPN game and a sports telecast.
ESPN's well-known presentation features will also be infused within the games from ESPN-stylized camera angles to stat panels, fresh overlays and additional music. In addition, the 2004 ESPN Videogames opening game interface will be modeled after ESPN's famous look, from the ESPN NFL Countdown animation to the in-studio SportsCenter set, which will become the backdrop for the menu screen.
Strategic, Innovative Marketing Push
With this closer alliance, Visual Concepts and ESPN will work intimately on all strategic marketing elements that will effectively convey the message about the brand and the line-up. Starting in August, consumers will see the ESPN Videogames marketing onslaught - starting with "ESPN NFL Football" - aimed at making sure that consumers nationwide know that ESPN Videogames makes some of the leading sports games in the business. By maximizing on-air integration of ESPN Videogames with ESPN programming or through promotional and event tie-ins such as the ESPN The Magazine National College Tailgate Tour and the ESPN National Truck Tour, this powerful combination of Visual Concepts and ESPN will further differentiate and support the new direction of the ESPN Videogames properties.
Overseeing marketing for ESPN Videogames will be Steven Raab, senior vice president of sports marketing for Visual Concepts. In this capacity, Raab will work closely with ESPN to set marketing strategy, overseeing all elements of advertising, promotions, communications and sports licensing. Formerly, Raab served as senior vice president of sports marketing and programming at Turner Broadcasting. There, he managed several of Turner's major properties including NASCAR, Major League Baseball and College Football.
"ESPN Videogames opens up a world of opportunity and new game play experiences for consumers," said Raab. "This brand is about fun, competition and a realistic sports gaming experience. We look forward to further driving home that message with consumers through our marketing and our unparalleled titles."
At the core of all the ESPN Videogames product launches this year will be an innovative, hard-hitting advertising campaign. Created by Wieden and Kennedy out of New York, the renowned agency that handled campaigns for major consumer brands including ESPN and Nike, the first of the new ESPN Videogames ads will kick off with ESPN NFL Football. The ads will focus on a compelling new feature that has never been seen before in a football videogame.