Electronic Arts is being sued for its exclusive license on Madden, NCAA & Arena Football League games from the past several years (presumably starting with Madden ’06 & NCAA ’06).
If you purchased certain Electronic Arts brand football video games between January 1, 2005 to the present you may be eligible to join the lawsuit!
EA will probably defeat the claim against it b/c antitrust cases often force the plaintiff to put on quite an impressive amount of evidence proving the game developer truly closed competition in the market. This civil suit standard is technically called a preponderance of the evidence (51%), which sounds relatively easy but is usually not the case in the land of antitrust litigation (this regards competition & fairness in the marketplace).
While most gamers obviously wish other vendors like 2K Sports & Midway could make NFL games to compete with EA, it’s not like EA runs the entire videogame universe & is going Tony Soprano, telling all other game developers they’d better not think about making a football game or there’s going to be trouble. In fact, those Blitz: The League pro football games came out, & no one is stopping another game developer from following in Midway’s footsteps and making its own unlicensed game using retired NFL players or players not part of the NFLPA (NFL Players Association).
Midway featured former all-pro linebackers Lawrence Taylor & Bill Romanowski’s likenesses/voices as “Quintin Sands” & “Bruno Battaglia” in its Blitz games with fictional teams to overcome EA Sports’ exclusive license with the NFL. I’m sure few people think those types of games are anywhere near as good to play as the Madden games, & I’d agree with that. Still, those games got released & the first Blitz game obviously did some business or else Midway would’ve have bothered to make a sequel. This may make proving competition was closed a tough sell, but more power to ‘em!
The great thing about this lawsuit is that it may make EA & the NFL think twice about pursuing another exclusivity license when the current one expires in 2012 (assuming it’s not renewed beforehand or extended further by a season-long NFL lockout in real life). Lawsuits are bad press, & paying legal fees to defend yourself gets old fast. Plus, most gamers hate this exclusive arrangement, so it’s a black eye for EA & the NFL.
Imagine if the NFL just lets the deal with EA run out, how great would that be? This would finally mean diversity in the marketplace again, taking us back to the glory days of 2004! Who remembers the joy of having your choice of:
1) arguably one of the best editions of Madden ever – Madden 2005, &
2) NFL 2K5.
Madden ’05 debuted the hit stick, & still let athletic QBs run & throw the ball accurately 70 yards down the field. This wasn’t an extremely realistic passing attack, but was a blast to play. That “big play” offensive model came off the heels of the Michael Vick-friendly Madden ’04 title. Some Madden enthusiasts, including myself, still regard Madden ’04 as the most fun copy of Madden ever.
On the flip side in 2004 you had NFL 2k5, which had the fantastically low $19.99 MSRP & featured a relatively authentic ESPN broadcast presentation for the time. Some people even thought this was a better game than the Madden edition that year. I wouldn’t go that far, but who cares? The point is Madden had some legit competition back then, & all was right with the world.
What does this mean for 2012 & beyond? Video games are logically better when developers know another game has the chance to beat them in a competitive genre if each developer doesn’t bring its A game.
So do we really need a class action lawsuit to get a better football video game? It’s pretty clear that having multiple NFL videogames released each year would be the real victory for gamers, and we don’t necessarily need a judgment & court order to do that if the NFL takes action.
All the NFL would have to do is decide exclusive licenses are too much of a hassle & make sure it can get more money collectively from all the football game developers than it could make from EA alone. Once that happens, diversity in the marketplace returns, and it’s a touchdown dance for the consumer.
As for this lawsuit, EA will probably win b/c other football titles do exist. Even if EA loses, most class-action plaintiffs will probably only get like 75 cents or a free download of “NFL Labor Dispute 2014″ or whatever new idea EA rolls out in a demo the year this case is resolved. “Labor Dispute 2014″ could be like the ill-fated “Head Coach” EA series, where you attend meetings, run an office, fill out paperwork, manage a schedule…basically an awful, boring football RPG every 14-year old Madden fan will put down in favor of finishing his homework.
Whether EA wins or loses, the lawyers are probably still getting paid…so we can all look forward to that.
Here’s the details from the web page link that was emailed to members of the class action:
U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal. – Oakland Div.)
Case No. 08-cv-02820 CW
Between January 1, 2005 to the Present
You May Be a Class Member.
What Is This Class Action About?
Who Are Class Members?
What Should I Do? (Getting Further Information)
To Remain a Class Member
To Exclude Yourself from the Class(Deadline to Request Exclusion: June 25, 2011)
Electronic Arts Litigation Exclusion
P.O. Box 8090
San Rafael CA 94912-8090
Or submit a request for exclusion electronically at the following website: www.easportslitigation.com
For further information about excluding yourself from the class go to the following website:
Please do not telephone or address inquiries to the Court.
April 6, 2011. By Order of the U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal. – Oakland Div.).