It has been well over a decade since 2K Games published an NFL-licensed football video game, but it is returning to those roots. In a new partnership with the NFL, 2K Games will make a series of football games. These titles are “already in early development," according to a statement released Tuesday from 2K, with the first entry releasing in 2021.

2K is best known for the NBA 2K series. Last year, the publisher additionally took on the development of the WWE 2K franchise. 2K also has published several critically acclaimed games, such as BioShock and Borderlands.

It’s not the first time NFL and 2K have teamed up. In 1999, they kick-started the NFL 2K franchise, but that deal petered out by 2004 — the same year the NFL began an exclusive partnership with Electronic Arts around its Madden series.

“We’re thrilled to be back in business with the NFL in a partnership that will span multiple video games centered on fun, approachable and social experiences," 2K President David Ismailer said in the company’s statement.

The upcoming NFL 2K games are described as “non-simulation” football titles, which is an indicator that they will differ from Electronic Arts’s massively popular Madden series. Exactly what steering away from simulation games means remains unclear, but it could signal a shift toward an arcade-style experience that leaves football realism in the hands of EA.

“Expanding the NFL’s presence in the world of gaming has become a focus for the League as we look to grow the next generation of our fan base and reviving our partnership with 2K was a natural step in that effort,” NFL senior vice president of consumer products Joe Ruggiero said. “2K is a worldwide leader in sports video games, with a proven track record of creating best-in-class and award-winning games, and we look forward to sharing more about the projects we are working on with them in the future.”

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