Recently, Phil Varckette sat down with former wrestling legend and fitness instructor Stevie Richards. The interview came together after Richards released what’s now becoming a yearly video where he discusses his love for NFL 2K5 while using the newest rosters from Operation Sports (major props to OS user tdmavens and everyone else who helps out with that project every year). Richards was gracious enough to spend a little time talking with Phil about his love for 2K5, what he thinks about the NFL exclusivity agreement, and his passion for video games.
Operation Sports: How is it that you’ve stuck with 2K5 this long?
Stevie Richards: The answer is in the video I seem to do annually at this point. There’s a bigger message and a bigger problem that has to do with the exclusive license. But there are a lot of comments on the video, and I love the interaction on the video. And I do understand that 2K is not completely innocent in their track record as well [for how it all went down].
Operation Sports: Yeah the exclusivity seemed to be brought on by 2K undercutting EA with the price tag, coming in at $20 which forced Madden to drop down to $39.99. The NFL didn’t seem to like that, so 2K might have shot themselves in the foot a bit right there, but it’s unfortunate.
Stevie Richards: Now, let me ask you a question, I know we’re talking about 2004, 16 years ago. If I’m not mistaken, when they got the exclusive license, they could have inherited the ESPN presentation, they could have brought over the multiple challenges, they could have brought over the Chris Berman Halftime Show. They legitimately could have made this [a perfect version of both games] — kinda like the XFL is trying now [by picking which parts of the NFL to mimic].
Operation Sports: Yeah, EA did have a form of the ESPN license, but the company decided not to go down that road. What they ended up doing — I think you probably know — when Madden 06 came out for the Xbox 360 it was an absolute disaster. Instead of having a commentary team, they had this generic radio announcer.
Stevie Richards: Now, the Tony Bruno thing was actually beloved. That was actually like the last good Madden right with ’05?
Operation Sports: Yeah, [on PS2 and Xbox] people still talk about the Tony Bruno Show. People want it to come back.
Stevie Richards: It had the little Sprint flip phone with the text messages on it. I will say this though, what I don’t understand about EA — and by the way I should have started off saying in the beginning, and I’ll say it again at the end, thank you to OS for keeping this game alive. But I never understood why Madden never picked up on that RPG style of wanting to play the GM or the owner. You know, naming the stadium, the ticket prices, the hot dog prices, signing your own player to like a $200 million dollar contract or getting rid of the MVP. Kind of like a GTA-type thing with NFL ownership, will you be good or will you be evil? Kind of running it like a wrestling promotion.
Operation Sports: I think when EA crossed over to Xbox 360 generation they decided not to bring the PS2/Xbox game engine over. They instead marketed the games as being on a new game engine, and that’s where they seemed to screw up. So, basically it was a whole new game, there was nothing brought from the previous generation, and a lot of stuff was left out of Madden 06. And for whatever reason, over the past 12-plus years or so, they just haven’t decided to fully focus on why owner mode was so great.
Stevie Richards: I think what happened was there was a crossroads when they took over the exclusive license. Then we started to see the foundation because resources was where the foundation went wrong. Let’s throw the money at the exclusive license instead of worrying about the devs who make the game better, then that turned into, sorta, like the stock market. They are a [massive] company. The microtransactions — the true evil of the gaming industry is the microtransactions — as well as the increase of the price was there, but the content of the game got peeled back. If you want to be generous, so it’s like three-fourths of a game, and then you have to sell DLC. So you’re paying $60 essentially for a $30 game, and if you want that $60 dollar game, you’re going to have to pay $90.
Operation Sports: Yeah, when microtransactions started with Ultimate Team, that’s when EA knew it had a cash cow. And they probably got a little bit complacent. Do you think it’s complacency?
Stevie Richards: No, I think it’s, see I run a fitness business. I run Stevie Richards Fitness. And I don’t really run my business well. And what I mean, EA runs a great business. They make money every year. People keep buying Madden. And one telling comment on my video, and probably on the forums, is it’s our fault for continuing to buy the game because the money in your wallet will say yes or no. Fitness wise, the analogy I’m trying to make is that I try to make the most affordable, accessible program out there. I know times are tough, and I know people may not have the money to spend $97, $99 or $125 dollars for online, digital or physical. So I hope for volume, but that’s not [always] a great business model. And 2K hoped for volume, and 2K did get volume in 2004. However, the profit loss sheet they had probably resembled Stevie Richards Fitness [especially after losing the license].
Operation Sports: So I wanted to ask you about one thing that has to do with wrestling. Back in the day when you were on the road, did you have time to play video games, did you find a way to do it.
Stevie Richards: Oh, that’s the only thing that saved my life during WWE. It revolved around the gym and video games. There’s not even a 1A and 1B, It was just an even one of both. And video games were great. And this is back when they frowned upon it, they didn’t do the UpUpDownDown channel. Kane, myself, D’Lo Brown, Rosie, Charles Robinson. A mixture of all of us would travel together. Usually myself, Glenn [Kane] probably D’Lo, but myself and Glenn would always travel together — and Rosie. It even got to the point where we were going to chip in for a tour bus so we wouldn’t have to worry about driving or a hotel or any of that.
But the system we had when we played was very interesting and very cool. When we used to do it, I would have the original Xbox — so we still just had the red, yellow and white cables — and we had two people playing Madden. The system was that if you kept winning you didn’t have to drive. If you lost, you had to drive. So it was a brilliant thing because you had a lot of 250-300 mile drives overnight between towns four to five nights a week.
You also got to be really dedicated to fly with the original Xbox. This is also when Newegg would cut Ethernet cable, so we would have two to three Xbox’s where we would run 150 feet of Ethernet cable to play Ghost Recon over a LAN party. We’d all have walkie talkies on our shirt and play the original Ghost Recon this way.
Operation Sports: Now that is really cool. Not to mention carrying that 10-pound Xbox around. I see now why 2K5 could mean so much to you.
Stevie Richards: I want to keep this game in the hearts and minds of people who may or may not know about it. And that’s the way I felt when I went to OS.
Operation Sports: It’s crazy, on OS there is still a following. There are guys who have sworn off Madden and all they play is 2K5. It’s cool to see that type of dedication. And that people would rather play a 15-year-old video game. It means so much to people still.
Stevie Richards: I haven’t even scratched the surface of All-Pro 2K8. I would say if it’s 3-4 years ahead of 2K5, it’s even more of a football simulation. But I really want to clear up a misconception about 2K5 and 2K8. These are not retro games. These two games should never be considered retro games. They are still up to date in my heart and my mind in 2020.
Operation Sports: So when you found OS, did you make an account, do you have a user name? You don’t have to tell me.
Stevie Richards: I do. Some people recognize me, but I haven’t posted in a while. I get excited to share the videos, but I don’t want to be self-serving. I recently went to the forums to see what people were saying about [Doug Flutie’s] Maximum Football. But I just read a lot of the posts and comments. I don’t read a lot of comments on my YouTube, but when there are enough comments and interactions then I’m going to follow up on my 2K videos.
I will probably just go by Stevie Richards now [on the forums]. But if you want an Easter egg, if you want to know my user name, if you go way, way back to 2007 I had a podcast — a tech podcast — and that is my user name.
Operation Sports: So do you play any other sports games?
Stevie Richards: I love to play NHL 94 with the blood on the ice and the fighting. I also like Blades Of Steel. I try to play a video game once a day. I actually like to play Hitman right now because I can appreciate the AI. If I can get Madden sub $10 dollars I will get it so I can play my friends. I will never pay full price for it.
Operation Sports: So is football your favorite sport now?
Stevie Richards: Video games have made me a football fan. Madden initially made me a fan. And that’s blossomed over the years into some NFL podcasts. But I want to start doing segments like ProFootballTalk does. I want to do these NFL segments. There are a lot of football players who are wrestling fans, so I think there are a lot of people out there who want to contribute. I see a lot of comparisons to football players and wrestlers with the owner/player dynamic.
And with NFL 2K5, how the people who embrace the game — even just with an annual video that I put out on YouTube — kind of [showed] me I really should pursue being this person that can speak about football from a unique prospective. And I would love to be part of the media somehow. That would be like my second dream come true next to wrestling.
Operation Sports: So there has been some rumors that 2K might be interested in making an XFL game. That would be amazing, right?
Stevie Richards: I agree, I actually put up an XFL video on my YouTube channel that you can check out talking about how I think the XFL is going to be a success. I enjoyed watching the games from a storyline perspective. And on a video game note, you’re talking about play clocks, voice actors’ microphones in the game, picking a play and hearing a play called, and replay reviews how they should be done. Plus, you get cutscenes with all that, while still [hopefully] keeping the 2K “choose your own adventure” style. I hope and pray that it will happen. I really do believe the XFL is going to be successful this time.
Also thank you so much for people reaching out to me, and commenting and saying because I made the 2K5 video that somehow I’m pitching this XFL game because I’m the WWE/2K go between guy. You know, I’d love to be a consultant, but if we speak out — people like OS, XFL fans, you and I — we could possibly make it happen, and make Madden actually do some good.
Operation Sports: So tell me about the stuff you cover on your YouTube channel?
Stevie Richards: Most of my stuff is fitness product reviews. I love dabbling in technology, and that is the reason I can create Stevie Richards Fitness online. I love creating videos and content so that foundation was great — doing podcasts, doing things like this interview. I also have a P900 and love shooting the stars and the moon. I’m a super diverse guy who can’t be defined, and can’t be put in a category. You either love it or you don’t like it. And I’m a video game nerd.
Operation Sports: I really appreciate your time. Thank you for deciding to talk to us.
Stevie Richards: In all seriousness, thank you to everyone in the community, thank you to anyone who has had a part in creating these rosters. The franchise mode, the PhotoShopped covers for the games, whatever you’ve done to make the experience still enjoyable 16 years later, it has not gone unnoticed. You are truly making a difference.
Operation Sports: It’s for the love of the game. The time and effort they put in is amazing to keep 2K5 alive for the people who still play. Stevie I really appreciate your time and hope we can chat again down the line.
Stevie Richards: Absolutely. And, again, I didn’t create the NFL 2K5 video to get the views or the clicks. I make stuff I’m passionate about. Don’t hold yourself back from doing it. Chase your dreams because you got a 100 percent shot of not making it if you don’t try and a 50 percent shot if you do try, so I like those odds.
- You can check out Stevie’s fitness programs at http://StevieRichardsFitness.com
- Get Stevie Richards merchandise at http://ProWrestlingTees.com/StevieRichards
- Check out his YouTube channel for everything from video games to fitness
- Force USA – Head to http://ForceUsa.com and use code STEVIE5 at checkout.