ESPN Digital Media VP Raphael Poplock says they inked this deal to create games because it's been 'virtually untapped.' That's largely true, though these games will be soon be going head-to-head with EA Sports/Playfish, which has at least one sports game in the works -- FIFA Superstars (and we presume more, like a Madden football spin-off, are also in the hopper). Another interesting note: EA Sports and ESPN have a 15-year deal (ESPN stats stream live into EA Sports console games), though we doubt this will be a conflict of interest -- at least legally -- especially since ESPN Arcade already has a suite of casual sports-themed games, such as ESPN Arcade Baseball and Return Man. Maybe these online games will be the basis for whatever rolls out later this year.
The real winner in this scenario is Playdom, the third most popular social gaming company after Zynga and Playfish. The company has churned out several successful games, i.e. Social City, and getting in bed with a major brand helps ensure that they have more staying power as big names swarm to social gaming in 2010.
In a release, Playdom CEO John Pleasants says, "While new brands have been created in the social gaming category, we, at Playdom, believe working with existing intellectual property will become increasingly important over time and are pleased to be incorporating ESPN's brand and vast library of content into several new social games that are in development."
But enough inside baseball talk -- what does this mean for you, the consumer? If you're a sports fan, your entire view of social gaming is about to change. Facebook/MySpace/etc games, which were once all about farm and fur, might start to seem a little more appealing (not to mention, put some hair on your chest). You too might soon join the legions of asking friends to -- instead of sending each other cows -- trade players or get extra energy required to execute your brilliant coaching strategy on the field. Stay tuned for updates as this story develops in the next few weeks. In the meantime, get ready to bring your 'A' game, champ.