3 downs, no licensing deal: Canadian football gets its first video game

It seems every major league has a video game counterpart — except for the Canadian Football League. Now one video game company is working to change that with the release of Canadian Football 2017, sort of.

The CFL isn't on board, but independent developer hopes game will catch on with fans

A screenshot of Canadian Football 2016 shows the Calgary Rustlers in action. (Canuck Play Inc./Screenshot)

Sports video games have been popular among armchair warriors for decades.

From EA Sports' NHL and Madden NFL series' to the 2k Sports MLB franchise of games, it seems every major league has a video game counterpart — except for the Canadian Football League.

But one Canadian video game company is working to change that with the release of Canadian Football 2017, sort of.

"I just felt it was about time," David Winter, president of Peterborough-based game developer Canuck Play Inc., told the Calgary Eyeopener.

"I grew up on Canadian football, I grew up out west and the very first sporting event I ever went to was a football game in Regina. And it got into my blood and it was just something that I wanted to do."

Officially unofficial

While using Canadian rules and based around Canadian cities, Canadian Football 2017 doesn't actually feature any CFL teams — the Calgary Rustlers fill in for the Stamps, for example.  

Winter says Canuck Play approached the CFL back in 2016 about licensing teams for the video game but says the costs involved didn't make financial sense for the company or the league. 

"To bring them on board, or to have them on board, there needs to be an adjustment in thinking as to what you can do with your expected revenues and how much money you can spend, so until that changes we're kind of on our own," said Winter. 

That said, those with a little computer knowledge and a burning desire to create real players sporting familiar jerseys are in luck thanks to open data files on the PC version of the game. 

"I am not encouraging the workaround and I do not want to know what you're doing with it, but if you're so inclined, you can edit those files as you wish," said Winter.

Behind the times

Winter says the game is about five years behind the times in terms of the quality of its graphics, but that he and his small team just wanted to get it out into the world, creating a base from which to grow and improve. 

He's not expecting to make much money on the game, which caters to a small market, but hopes to break even over the short term and maybe post a profit as newer versions of the game are released. 

"It's just because I'm a fan of the sport, my partners are fans of the sport, and we just decided, you know what, this just needs to be done, it needed to be done decades ago, and nobody else was going to step up and do it, so I just figured, what the heck."

The game available on the Xbox ONE and on PCs.