News regarding EA Sports’ #1 franchise is rarely covered at ButtonMasher because, well, New Zealand is a rugby nation. Just last night on the podcast, at least one individual (who will remain nameless) was surprised to learn that “Madden” is the name of a dude and not just some weird thing to call an American football franchise. Conversely however, I’ve been surprised on more than one occasion by evidence that the series does have some hooks sunk into the local folk that generally prefer their balls to be passed backward (why does that sound dirty?) Anyway, EA Sports has legal matters surrounding Madden; some new, some long-standing. Details past the jump.
To understand it all, you have to remember (or learn, if you haven’t been paying attention for the last decade,) that EA acquired an exclusive licensing deal with the NFL in 2004 to last five years, which has since been extended to 2012. Now, this certainly doesn’t stop anyone from creating an American Football game. It does, however, stop their competitors from using all the hallmarks that the fans associate with the sport, like the players, teams, stadiums, all that jazz. So in the simplest of terms, it’s not a monopoly, but when you boil it down to why the majority of players buy these games, it might as well be.
In 2008, a class action lawsuit was lodged against EA over this, and the latest news is that the wheels of bureaucracy have turned enough that it seems that it will go to trial. First however, the class part of the class action has to be properly formed (or something appropriately more legal sounding,) so EA has e-mailed purchasers of the relevant titles to let them know about their entitlement to be a part of the suit. I can’t help but think that this would make a great setting for a court room drama. The matter at hand is perched in an area so grey that you could calibrate your TVs brightness to it.
The other suit that has arisen of late is a claim to unpaid royalties to Robin Antonick, one of the original creators. Antonick claims he has EA under contract to pay him royalties for subsequent Madden releases which are derivative of his work. From the sounds of things, Antonick got wind of something said by Trip Hawkins during the publicity cycle for Madden’s 20th anniversary edition, which may or may not have been typical promotional hyperbole, bluster, and/or bullshit. If he wins, given the popularity of Madden though, Antonick would no doubt find a substantial sum floating his way.