Madden Makers Sued by Game's Original Programmer, Also Some Dudes

Posted by BradNicholson (812 posts) -
Madden NFL football is on the receiving end of two more high-profile lawsuits, the latest of which involves every Madden NFL, NCAA, or AFL game owner since around the 2005-06 season. The second suit has less impact on you, the player, as it involves a former EA programmer and his allegation that he’s owed royalty payments amounting to millions and millions of dollars.

Let’s talk about the class-action suit first, since you could be affected (relax, you didn't do anything wrong). The other night, EA Sports mass emailed a bunch of Madden owners a legal notice, advising anyone who purchased a recent NFL, AFL, or NCAA football game that 2008’s class-action lawsuit is moving forward. In a nutshell, this suit is about the agreements EA entered into with those respective organizations between 2004 and 2006. The complainants allege that EA essentially owns a monopoly on football games, and that it's giving fans nowhere else to go for their digital football thrills.

You can track the core of this lawsuit back to the last generation of NFL football games, a generation in which Madden was catching up with the critically acclaimed 2K Sports' NFL 2K series. This was before those exclusivity deals, so there was open competition, primarily from 2K. This spat reached its apex in a series of price-slashing maneuvers in 2004 when NFL 2K5 was being offered at an agreeable $20 price point and Madden 2005 was at $30. In the year following, the NFL and the NFLPA inked an exclusive agreement with EA, preventing the sales of brand new football games from anyone besides EA. This is a deal that’s still in effect now, which is why we have no more NFL Fever titles and instead get games like Backbreaker in their place.


== TEASER ==In the months following this deal, EA inked exclusivity deals with the NCAA as well as the AFL, keeping 2K Sports and other possible competition completely out of the picture.

So, the meat of this suit is about the lack of competition, while the potatoes appear to be the allegation of price inflating. Madden 2006, for example, was offered at the standard retail price instead of the $30 point Madden 2005 hit in the war with 2K. This suit is saying that you’ve got no other options, which is true... but it’s not exactly like EA is charging higher than standard industry prices. New copies of Madden cost the same as, say, a new Gears of War. But, hey, I'm not a lawyer, so I'm probably missing something here.

But wait, there's more!... lawsuits! The other suit, however, couldn’t be more different. According to 1UP, one of the original creators of Madden, Robin Antonick, believes he’s owed a significant amount of cash because he signed a contract with EA Sports that would reward him royalties on derivative versions of Madden. Here’s the wording on the complaint:

"Only recently, as a result of publicity surrounding the 20th Anniversary of the 'Madden' videogame did Antonick become aware that Electronic Arts did not independently develop subsequent versions of its Madden NFL software. Instead, according to recent statements by Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, the current generation of software apparently derived from software developed by Antonick."


Of course, EA believes Antonick doesn’t have a leg to stand on. In a statement, an EA representative told 1UP that “the complaint and its 20 year-old claim are utterly without merit,” which is a clever way to say “yo, this is bullshit.” We received the former response in our inboxes, too, without even having to ask.

These aren’t even all the suits surrounding Madden. Several retired players are suing EA over their alleged unauthorized digital representation in Madden 2009, and former Browns player Jim Brown has his own suit alleging the same thing. Makes you wonder how many lawyers EA Sports has. I guess there’s at least... four. 
#1 Posted by BradNicholson (812 posts) -
Madden NFL football is on the receiving end of two more high-profile lawsuits, the latest of which involves every Madden NFL, NCAA, or AFL game owner since around the 2005-06 season. The second suit has less impact on you, the player, as it involves a former EA programmer and his allegation that he’s owed royalty payments amounting to millions and millions of dollars.

Let’s talk about the class-action suit first, since you could be affected (relax, you didn't do anything wrong). The other night, EA Sports mass emailed a bunch of Madden owners a legal notice, advising anyone who purchased a recent NFL, AFL, or NCAA football game that 2008’s class-action lawsuit is moving forward. In a nutshell, this suit is about the agreements EA entered into with those respective organizations between 2004 and 2006. The complainants allege that EA essentially owns a monopoly on football games, and that it's giving fans nowhere else to go for their digital football thrills.

You can track the core of this lawsuit back to the last generation of NFL football games, a generation in which Madden was catching up with the critically acclaimed 2K Sports' NFL 2K series. This was before those exclusivity deals, so there was open competition, primarily from 2K. This spat reached its apex in a series of price-slashing maneuvers in 2004 when NFL 2K5 was being offered at an agreeable $20 price point and Madden 2005 was at $30. In the year following, the NFL and the NFLPA inked an exclusive agreement with EA, preventing the sales of brand new football games from anyone besides EA. This is a deal that’s still in effect now, which is why we have no more NFL Fever titles and instead get games like Backbreaker in their place.


== TEASER ==In the months following this deal, EA inked exclusivity deals with the NCAA as well as the AFL, keeping 2K Sports and other possible competition completely out of the picture.

So, the meat of this suit is about the lack of competition, while the potatoes appear to be the allegation of price inflating. Madden 2006, for example, was offered at the standard retail price instead of the $30 point Madden 2005 hit in the war with 2K. This suit is saying that you’ve got no other options, which is true... but it’s not exactly like EA is charging higher than standard industry prices. New copies of Madden cost the same as, say, a new Gears of War. But, hey, I'm not a lawyer, so I'm probably missing something here.

But wait, there's more!... lawsuits! The other suit, however, couldn’t be more different. According to 1UP, one of the original creators of Madden, Robin Antonick, believes he’s owed a significant amount of cash because he signed a contract with EA Sports that would reward him royalties on derivative versions of Madden. Here’s the wording on the complaint:

"Only recently, as a result of publicity surrounding the 20th Anniversary of the 'Madden' videogame did Antonick become aware that Electronic Arts did not independently develop subsequent versions of its Madden NFL software. Instead, according to recent statements by Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, the current generation of software apparently derived from software developed by Antonick."


Of course, EA believes Antonick doesn’t have a leg to stand on. In a statement, an EA representative told 1UP that “the complaint and its 20 year-old claim are utterly without merit,” which is a clever way to say “yo, this is bullshit.” We received the former response in our inboxes, too, without even having to ask.

These aren’t even all the suits surrounding Madden. Several retired players are suing EA over their alleged unauthorized digital representation in Madden 2009, and former Browns player Jim Brown has his own suit alleging the same thing. Makes you wonder how many lawyers EA Sports has. I guess there’s at least... four. 
#2 Posted by deskp (444 posts) -

oh sports

#3 Posted by MaddProdigy (1041 posts) -

nooo


#4 Posted by Brendan (7670 posts) -

EA Lawyer 11

#5 Posted by SuperSambo (2850 posts) -

"The other night"

Link to a 1UP article from 4 days ago

Good old Brad. Up to date as always...

#6 Posted by RecSpec (3754 posts) -

I got this email last night, and was like wtf?

#7 Posted by MooseyMcMan (10384 posts) -

Oh, pointless lawsuits. So silly. 

#8 Posted by ajamafalous (11821 posts) -
@SuperSambo said:
" "The other night"Link to a 1UP article from 4 days agoGood old Brad. Up to date as always... "
#9 Posted by enemymouse (329 posts) -

It's hard to argue with a name like Trip Hawkins

#10 Posted by Daveyo520 (6651 posts) -

It is 2K's fault for not making a deal with the NFL themselves. 

Online
#11 Posted by Vinny_Says (5681 posts) -

saw a thread about this today, I didn't reply...

#12 Posted by 234r2we232 (3181 posts) -
EA to release a forthcoming DLC response (sponsored by Dr Pepper) to these allegations.

@blacklabeldomm said:
" saw a thread about this today, I didn't reply... "
You're strange.
#13 Posted by Aenovae (21 posts) -

Bullshit should be an official legal term.

#14 Posted by GalacticPunt (1016 posts) -

I doubt the class action lawsuit will actually win, but I morally support it.  The NFL 2K series was great on the Dreamcast and PS2.  Both Madden and 2K were in an awesome arms race, adding big new features every year while slashing prices.  When EA shelled out a metric fuckton of money to the NFL to lock competition out, that was my exit from football games.  Obviously, there are still millions of dudes out there who need their yearly football fix, and EA has them by the balls.  I'd love to see EA and the NFL pay the fratboys some restitution for these years of inferior product at full price.

As for Madden 3DS, that needs to be a criminal case...

#15 Posted by S0ndor (2715 posts) -
@Daveyo520 said:
" It is 2K's fault for not making a deal with the NFL themselves.  "
That is not how exclusivity works.
#16 Edited by Daveyo520 (6651 posts) -
@S0ndor: Yes it is. EA signed an  exclusivity deal with the NFL so only they had the rights. 2K could have done that before EA had a chance to if they thought of it, but they didn't. 
Online
#17 Posted by MrKlorox (11198 posts) -

I don't want to read a fake quote starting with "yo" from Brad2 ever again. That's Jeff's shtick.

#18 Posted by scarace360 (4828 posts) -

ok?

#19 Posted by salad10203 (654 posts) -

We the gamers demand free market in games of all genres.  Let them compete.

I haven't bought a football game since NFL 2k5.

#20 Posted by Tennmuerti (7957 posts) -
@Aenovae said:
" Bullshit should be an official legal term. "
word
#21 Posted by tourgen (4427 posts) -

Out of control copyright law creating inefficiencies in the marketplace.  Nothing new here.  Fair competition is crushed, executives and lawyers get grossly overpaid, the creative people who think of and implement new ideas get the shaft.


Is there any way for everyone involved to loose?  Oh wait we already have.
#22 Posted by moondogg (166 posts) -

Whats stopping 2k from making an unofficial gridiron game. If 2k was better people will still buy it even if it doesn't have licensed teams and players, right... RIGHT? 
#23 Posted by John1912 (1813 posts) -

EA really needs to go away.....Has there been a franchise that has improved under EA?  Screw their employees and push shit out the door......

#24 Edited by MikeHawk (382 posts) -

So is this related to the email that I got the other day telling me that I got an EA master account? EA told me yesterday that it was a mistake during a test procedure. But that has nothing to do with Madden games. I'm so confused!!!
#25 Edited by Kurtdyoung (1297 posts) -

If this results in other dudes working on new, different, football games, then I'm all for it.

#26 Posted by Deevster (35 posts) -

Saw this posted on joystiq on April 1st and thought it was a prank.

#27 Posted by Baraka528 (28 posts) -

THE GAME INDUSTRY IS SRS BUSINESS

#28 Posted by Napalm (9020 posts) -
@Brendan said:
" EA Lawyer 11 "
I laughed really hard. :D
#29 Posted by Klarion18 (70 posts) -

Wait... it took this programmer till the 20th anniversary edition of Madden to start raising questions and wondering if he's being compensated properly?  Its not like Madden is an unknown franchise or something.  I'm sure if anybody created proprietary software/programming language and signed a contract that had something to do with a high value property such as Madden, they would stay on top of these issues or at least seek legal advice regarding all of this.  


I find it very odd that he would bring it up now, but maybe this is strategic with the lockout looming and other lawsuits happening.

#30 Posted by Example1013 (4833 posts) -
@Aenovae said:
" Bullshit should be an official legal term. "
I have the most legit treatise ever. It's called "On Bullshit". Amazing book.
#31 Posted by enmden (1 posts) -

well hmph

#32 Edited by Kyle (2323 posts) -
Brad Nicholson said:

" The complainants allege that EA essentially owns a monopoly on football games, and that it's giving it's fans nowhere else to go for their digital football thrills. " 

Well fuck me if that isn't true... I mean, it's not legally true, but I know I haven't played a football game I liked since 2004.   

Oh shit, wait, okay I did just buy Blood Bowl last night and that's pretty awesome, BUT OTHER THAN THAT...

#33 Posted by Kyle (2323 posts) -
@Daveyo520 said:
" @S0ndor: Yes it is. EA signed an  exclusivity deal with the NFL so only they had the rights. 2K could have done that before EA had a chance to if they thought of it, but they didn't.  "
I'm sure the NFL gave them a chance to make a counteroffer, but the fact is that 2K didn't have as much money to spend as EA did, so they never had a chance at getting that deal. EA used the fact that they had the most money to throw around in order shut out the competition. Not sayin' they did anything illegal, but it totally sucks.
#34 Edited by Stonecutter (24 posts) -
Gentlemen, Ladies,

Everyone here
, including Brad, is slightly mistaken when it comes to the facts of this case.

While EA Sports  lobbied heavily for exclusivity, they did not initiate the talks that eventually lead to that exclusivity. When the final decision came down, it was the NFL who put the license up for bid, and EA was the highest bidder.

As much as I like whipping EA for making a product that I felt was inferior to NFL2k, they're not the ones at fault here. The NFL is doing what the NFL always does, asserting its powers to the fullest to control the marketplace as tighly as it can. That EA won out on the bid was almost certainly 
fait accompli once the NFL made the decision to hold a bid, but they're not the ones enabling the monopoly, the NFL is. 

The NFL likes to control its brand. A lot. The NFL believes it is in their best interest to limit who can display the shield, and where they can display it.

By doing so, not only do they get to charge money for the exclusivity, (Which, for reasons that should be obvious, companies like EA are happy to pay for) they also get to charge whatever they want for the merchandise. There was ONE company that made official NFL apparel : Reebok.

The good news is that the operative word there is was. The NFL was sued by a company known as American Needle, and the US Supreme Court handed the NFL its ass on a platter

 http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/The-NFL-loses-American-Needle-What-it-means?urn=nfl-243282

The bad news (for us, good news for EA and the NFL) is that the NFL operating as 32 separate entities probably doesn't give much wiggle room when it comes to to video games. The NFL TV deal, while spread across 4 networks (5 if you count NFL network) is still a contract negotiated with all 32 teams as a single entity, and I don't see that changing. Video games would seem to fall under that umbrella. Right now the NFL has so much product that it needs to spread itself out over five separate networks and to maximize its profits. (Don't shit yourself though, if they can prove it viable, in 20 or 30 years every game will be on NFL network and you will pay an exhortation subscription fee to view them) 

I realize I've taken a very circuitous route to my point here, so I'll wrap this up: A decision on whether or not the American Needle ruling applies to the Madden franchise is what will ultimately decide whether or not EA loses their exclusivity, not either of these other suits. Furthermore if EA lost exclusivity through means other than a decision relating to the American Needle case, in all likelihood another company would become the exclusive developer of licensed NFL video games, and the Madden franchise would go away.
#35 Posted by Daveyo520 (6651 posts) -
@Kyle: That is only 2K's fault it is not EA's fault they didn't make enough money.
Online
#36 Posted by Meowshi (2911 posts) -

I want my damn yearly roster changes!


SPORTS SPORTS

SPORTS
#37 Posted by Brodehouse (9523 posts) -

I'd like it if anyone other than Activision made Marvel action games, but they have the exclusivity deal and so I'll just have to play action games with Bayonetta instead of Spider-Man.

The problem is not with EA or the NFL, it's with consumers who only play a game because it has Peyton Manning in it.  If Ubisoft or Konami or someone released an incredible unlicensed hockey game, I'd play the hell out of it, even without Crosby and Ovechkin.

#38 Posted by Kyle (2323 posts) -
@moondogg said:
" Whats stopping 2k from making an unofficial gridiron game. If 2k was better people will still buy it even if it doesn't have licensed teams and players, right... RIGHT?  "
No, not really. You're not from America, are you?
#39 Posted by Norusdog (339 posts) -
@moondogg said:
" Whats stopping 2k from making an unofficial gridiron game. If 2k was better people will still buy it even if it doesn't have licensed teams and players, right... RIGHT?  "
no.  actually a majority of football game fans WANT their favorite players/teams in a game.  If they're not they're no where near as interested.

I'm not the biggest fan of watching football..but I love to play.  That said, no I'm not that interested in a football game with fake teams and made up players..even though I couldn't care less about most football players/teams (outside my home team and one or two other "liked" teams)

and it has nothing to do with quality.  EA jumped on this and signed this deal because that's their strategy..buy out or run down the competition.  2k had a large following, put out a cheap game ($20) and EA said " oh hell no " called the NFL and got the deal going.

lack of competition is bad no matter what medium you're talking about.
#40 Edited by Phenwah (52 posts) -

I just want EA to put out a game called "Madden" and release yearly roster updates as DLC. It's not like anything else changes year to year.

#41 Posted by DG991 (1344 posts) -
@Phenwah: Someone could totally make a Madden game themselves that looks just as good and have a community keep it updated but then that way the NFL doesn't make any money.

Someone should do it actually... As long as you don't profit off of it you probably could get away with it. Not really sure. Just can't use the name Madden... or maybe you could if your making your own thing. 
#42 Posted by Saga (178 posts) -

Is that a pic from Madden 11? Madden 12? or Madden 08?


Sorry, they all look alike
#43 Posted by gabha (354 posts) -

At first I read the programmers name as Robotnik

#44 Posted by AndyMP (226 posts) -

The Madden series needs a total reboot. On next gen consoles, it has been nothing short of a disaster. I can think of countless sports titles that have literally left Madden behind. 

#45 Posted by EmuLeader (557 posts) -
@Daveyo520: There are laws against monopolies.  If 2K would have made the deal, they would have been sued instead.  The fact is that the deal itself was against very well known laws against such behavior.  So, no, 2K should not have just made that deal instead.
#46 Posted by Katkillad (142 posts) -

I enjoyed football with the 2k series... and was pissed when the EA exclusive stuff happened.  So i hope they get what they deserve.

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