EA Pushed ‘NHL 21’ To October And Cited ‘Major Adjustments’ In Its Development

While the actual sports calendar is in complete disarray due to COVID-19 and the still-ongoing pandemic hitting the United States particularly hard, the virtual sports calendar has stayed relatively unchanged. Some video games have seen coronavirus-related delays, but major sports titles like NBA 2K and Madden remain on track for their traditional release windows, which are just before the real seasons would start in real life.

That changed on Monday, though, when EA announced that its upcoming hockey game NHL 21 would move from a September release to sometime in October.

To answer the most commonly asked question first, NHL 21 will launch a little later this year, shifting from our usual September window to October. This year has been full of extraordinary circumstances and we’ve had to make major adjustments in developing the game from home. This transition has been very successful and we’re happy to say that the game is on track and feature-complete against our original vision, we just need a few extra weeks to do the polish, fine tuning and bug fixing.

The announcement assured fans that the game would be “worth the wait” and EA promised a look at the nearly-finished game sometime in late August. EA Sports also announced on Monday that it would not have true next-gen releases for the game on the upcoming Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, though the game would be forward compatible and playable on those consoles with the same features it will launch with. Sports sims like NBA 2K21 will have next-gen releases, but it looks like hockey fans are left out in the cold on this one.

Another thing we’ve seen questions around is next-gen consoles. For NHL 21, we made the decision to focus on adding innovation and new features rather than the resource-heavy task of porting the game to new console technology. You’ll still be able to play NHL 21 on the next-gen consoles through forward compatibility but we are fully focused on launching NHL 21 on the Xbox One and PS4 and look forward to the opportunities the next-gen systems will bring in the future.

None of this is particularly shocking, especially when you consider that game development largely shifted, like much of the rest of industries across the world, to a work from home situation. There are countless issues that could have come up to delay the game’s release, but even with a month added to its development time the title will come out well before the next season of NHL hockey is played. That league’s bubble is expected to begin play on August 1, and no schedule for next season exists right now, either.