If you add them, fans will play.
That’s the mindset of the developers and producers at EA Canada when it comes to adding new leagues and teams to franchises like EA Sports FIFA and EA Sports NHL.
As leagues are added to titles, fans get a chance to play with teams and players that they may never have known about without their inclusion in the video game. For NHL 17, the league that benefits is the ECHL.
When the full feature set was announced for NHL 17 from EA Sports, fans were pleasantly surprised to see the ECHL make its debut in the video game world. From the Orlando Solar Bears to the Florida Everblades, fans will now be able to play with developmental teams in the digital world.
It’s a deal that had been in the works for quite some time.
“ECHL has been in the works since early October,” Associate producer of NHL 17 Andy Agostini said. “We went and visited them at their offices and had a chat. We had always been in contact over the years, but now with the NHL using the ECHL as a true development – over 150 players – it just felt like a good fit to start to bring them in and get them into the game.“
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With it being the first year in the game, the ECHL will only be featured in Play Now, Online Play, Season and Hockey Ultimate Team modes. That being said, there are plans in the works to get the league more enveloped in the game down the line, including in Franchise and Be-A-Pro Modes. Unfortunately, that takes a lot of work on both the development and league end of things.
“The ECHL has a lot more player movement than most leagues because they’re not necessarily connected to something like a one or two-way deal,” Agostini said. “They have free agents that can come and go. It’s a bit of work, and we’ve been working with them to learn how to manage all of that change.”
The fact that each ECHL team has players that aren’t under contract to an NHL team, it can lead to issues for modes like Be-A-Pro or Franchise. Adding in-game logic to avoid players not on contract with clubs being moved around in modes by either user- or CPU-controlled teams is a tricky task. That won’t stop accurate rosters from being available for players to enjoy in the aforementioned modes, though.
With the addition of the ECHL, the NHL series continues to add new leagues for fans to enjoy. There are plans in place to add more leagues down the line, with the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) and Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) as two of the more requested leagues along with the United States Hockey League (USHL).
Neither Agostini nor Sean Ramjagsingh would divulge into future league additions, but they both stated that they are working towards giving players more and more team options down the line.
Michael is a former Managing Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.