For rEd and Grymm
…‘I just got Gretzky in a fight!’
Brook felt the force of the sucker punch. It took a second for the rest of the room to register the statement. As it sunk in, VIPs gathered around the monitor to watch Wayne Gretzky, the face of the NHL, get into a fistfight with an opposing player. And as the pixelated version of hockey’s greatest player spilled blood onto the ice, everyone’s eyes darted to John Ziegler, anxious to gauge the commissioner’s reaction.
In the moment, Ziegler played it close to his chest, but afterwards he was furious. Fighting had always been part of the sport – a means for players to police themselves – but it had recently become such a hot-button issue that the league had considered banning it once and for all. The last thing the league wanted was a videogame that glorified fighting. And in real hockey, it was only the enforcers who fought with one another, so why the hell did this videogame allow for Wayne Gretzky to get beaten up? Under no circumstances should that face be bloodied, bruised or rendered black and blue. This was unacceptable, a deal-breaker, and so the NHL demanded that EA remove the feature.
However, although the game wouldn’t come out for another couple of months, the final code had already been shipped to Japan: millions of cartridges were in the process of being manufactured, and a freight of boats had been chartered to bring back the complete games. These facts were made clear to the NHL, who sympathised with EA’s difficult situation, but were now unwilling to change their stance: do not ship this game … or else.
Or else what? Brook wondered, and soon got his answer in the form of an ultimatum: if EA released NHL Hockey as it was, then the NHL would not work with them on future games. That meant no logos, no team names, and no more Stanley Cup invitations. Brook spent the next few days surveying customers and the consensus was clear: they’d rather have fighting than logos. And so, after making the best hockey game to date, EA and the NHL parted ways. … Read Only Memory