Since vanishing at the beginning of the generation, GM Connected has been an oft-requested feature from fans. The NHL development team has mostly downplayed the possibility of online franchise returning to the series, but creative director William Ho is nevertheless leaving the door open for its eventual return.
In an interview published earlier today on USgamer, Ho said that the team has heard "over and over" from fans that they want the feature back. "I think any time that we hear over and over that fans want a particular feature or mode like GM Connected, we never ignore it, right? We always weigh it against what we have to achieve for a particular year for the audience that we want."
First introduced back in NHL 13, GM Connected allows players to match up against one another in a league setting, complete with free agency and a draft. GM Connected was slow and somewhat broken, but it nevertheless garnered a loyal audience. Sadly, it never made the leap to the Xbox One and PS4, and it remains missing to this day.
The NHL team is at least open to bringing the mode back, but Ho says that there's work to do before that can happen. "I do think that there are a lot of little bits and pieces and atomic parts to something like GM Connected that we have to align if we're going to do it properly."
If GM Connected does make a comeback, it will partly reverse the recent trend of sports sims dropping online league functionality. At present, NBA 2K and Madden are the only sports sims with online franchise modes, with MLB The Show having dropped the feature earlier this year.
Right now NHL is focused on attracting casual players via modes like World of Chel and Ones, which are being introduced in NHL 19. If NHL does return to GM Connected, don't expect it to happen next year, as it sounds like the team needs to lay the groundwork first.
NHL 19 is set to launch September 14 on Xbox One and PS4. The open beta is now available.