EA giving up NCAA exclusivity isn't giving up anything

Settlement in antitrust lawsuit might cost $27 million, but unlikely to cost publisher its virtual monopoly on video game football.

Last week, Electronic Arts reached a settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought against it for anticompetitive behavior in scooping up exclusive gaming rights to the NFL, NCAA, and AFL football licenses. Under the terms of the agreement, the publisher will let its current deal with the NCAA lapse in 2014, and won't seek an exclusive arrangement with the league for at least five years after that.

Exclusivity or not, EA is playing a prevent defense when it comes to football.

In theory, the settlement brings to an end EA's vice-like grip on American football games, allowing someone else to make a competing NCAA title and create the sort of rivalry that leads to innovation. In reality, it's more likely to underscore just how entrenched EA's position is.

Assuming the settlement is finalized and other companies are able to make NCAA Football games starting in 2015, the big question becomes, "Who would?" EA will still make college football games, so whoever jumps into the fray would be going up against an established heavyweight.

Take-Two is the obvious choice to step up, considering it was the publisher's aggressively priced and critically acclaimed NFL 2K5 that prompted EA to lock down football exclusivity in the first place. However, the company may have lost its taste for competing with EA. Take-Two has come to regret the MLB third-party exclusivity deal it signed in the wake of EA's NFL and NCAA deals, and it put NHL 2K on ice in 2011 after years of playing a punching bag to EA's NHL series. In fact, the only good news 2K Sports has had of late has been the success of the NBA 2K series since 2010, the same year EA benched its own NBA series. And don't think Take-Two would be able to jump right back in the saddle and toss off a worthy follow-up to NFL 2K5 on a lark. The company showed a tremendous amount of faith in its ability to do just that in 2007 with All-Pro Football 2K8. But the game, which features retired greats instead of current players and teams, met with sluggish sales and a lukewarm critical response, never spawning a second installment.

Assuming other companies are able to make NCAA Football games, the big question becomes, "Who would?"

Call of Duty publisher Activision is big enough to go head-to-head with EA in the sports category, but it would run against the company's credo of producing fewer games and spending the money to make them bigger but safer bets. In the past, Activision saw market segments where it had no presence as opportunities to pad out its portfolio, such as when it acquired Bizarre Creations to try to buy its way into the racing genre. Unfortunately, the Bizarre racer Blur never hit it big, and the studio was put to work on the James Bond license before being closed entirely. To give an idea of where the publisher's thinking is at right now, it had a grand total of four games at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo: The Amazing Spider-Man, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and Skylanders Giants. That's two popular licensed properties, a sequel to a phenomenally successful first-person shooter, and a follow-up to last year's breakout holiday toy hit. When this company does take a risk (as with the original Skylanders last year), it generally isn't one that has it going up against an entrenched industry leader for bragging rights in a category that has been flat for years.

So who else is likely to jump on the loose ball here? Considering that EA's exclusivity deal ends in 2014, that gives any potential challenger three years to prep a game we can assume would debut on the next generation of Xbox and PlayStation consoles in time for the start of the 2015 season. Now look at the current state of the packaged retail gaming business, at how it has been down by double-digit percentages every month this year, at how expensive the cost of next-generation game development will be, at how risk-averse publishers have become. And ask yourself, "Which of these companies is likely to commit to making an NCAA Football game right now?" Ask which of them is willing to make that kind of investment in a game that will realistically only sell in the United States. Ask which of them will be able to put together a high-quality simulation of an absurdly intricate sport that features more than 100 teams, each with its own school logo, mascot, and stadium. Now ask which of those who are left, if any, will be able to do this in a way that could possibly compete with Electronic Arts' feature-rich football factory, which has been churning out a reasonably complex, if rarely inspired or innovative, collegiate pigskin game every year for the past two decades.

I'm not saying there won't be an NCAA game released from someone outside EA, as the existing NCAA series' stagnation should have fans eager for some sort of alternative, perhaps in the form of an arcade-style take on the sport. But don't expect this to break EA's virtual monopoly on the gaming gridiron. There were reasons the company agreed to this settlement, and "fostering any form of legitimate competition" was not among them.

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1 comments
enloe316
enloe316

Would love to see the return of a NCAA College Basketball game. 

Elite_Baller
Elite_Baller

EA has been a monopoly in the college football gaming industry for too long...... its a shame that EA might actually start making good games now only because they have competition.... the should have been doing this since 2006....

RighteousWoman
RighteousWoman

I haven't played Madden since they signed the exclusivity deal. As much as I love football games, I refuse to give my money to a company that wants to monopolize a video game sport. There are plenty of other games to play. I have my morals and I am not compromising them for EA.

KidTexan
KidTexan

What's probably going to happen in the next 5 years or so, is a price drop for NCAA and maybe Madden. To me, NC13 is an update of NC11, in other words, NC13 is not worth $60, nor is Madden for that matter. I'm a fan of the sport, so to me, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The only thing I would like to see is  halftime and postgame highlights of other games, and in-game saves for the xbox & ps3 consoles. As for someone else competing with EA as far as football is concern, not going to happen, it's too expensive. Think about it, how many companies can shell out a $27m settlement?

vicecitysaint
vicecitysaint

EA is by far the worst gaming company, they care more about sales than making a good game

DRYCELL21
DRYCELL21

NFL2k owns. If I were to compare NFL2k5 to Madden 12, it wouldnt be funny. NFL2k5 released in 2005 still looks and plays better than Madden today. How is that? Madden sucks?! Duh! EA created a monopoly because they couldnt hang with 2k. Also, 2k5 came out priced at $29.99, compared to Madden $59.99. Hmmm, if you like a company stealing your hard earned money then buy Madden. They always fix the dumbest s.h.i.t. or add dumb modes that no one plays every year and need to focus more on gameplay. Madden is the curse!

Vari3ty
Vari3ty

I have to believe Take-Two would create a new NFL 2K if EA were to lose their exclusivity deal with the NFL (which I'm desperately hoping will happen). Football and the NFL in particular are extremely high profile, and it wouldn't hurt to at least give it a shot once. Who knows, they might be able to overthrow Madden, which has become the industry definition of stale.

Ghosthunter54
Ghosthunter54

Anyone noticing a coincidence between EA and 2K?  2K is the only one who makes a basketball game and EA doesn't compete with them, EA is the only one who makes a football game and hockey game and 2K doesn't compete with them...  Anyone else smell collusion? 

fredwv
fredwv

EA's punishment must be more severe.

checkrazor1976
checkrazor1976

btw tainted you must not hace played too many football games or you dont like ur games to be realistic   go play NFL 2K5 and run a few in routes  ur qb will have a 100% completion and a reciever with 400 plus yards a game   hey now thats fun

checkrazor1976
checkrazor1976

i agree with every word jab............. NFL 2K5 is maybe the most overrated game of all time, and if not at least the most overrated sports game.  i do think Madden could use some major fixin but year in and year out it is still a good football game and i never want to see NBA 2K 12's horrid canned annimations in my football games

 

ImBack558855
ImBack558855

man when it comes down 2it.... Madden has better game play then 2k.. and that's how i felt about NBA Live it had better game play then 2k Basketball... my opinion... really don't care what anybodys got 2say......

Jab7604
Jab7604

i know ill get flamed by the internet for saying this NFL 2k5 is overrated.... yes the game was great and deffanetly put the madden franchise on notice, whic of course led to the NFL giving them exclusive rights. NFL 2k5 had presentation... amd thats about it, character animations came off as stiff and clunky. my one wish is that EA would jusrt copy paste the NFL 2k5 presentation and use full use of the the ESPN lisence, if they did that  im sure people would finally get off the 2k5 band wagon.... like i said this is just my opinion.

TaintedMindz
TaintedMindz

I'll say this NFL 2K5 was the greatest NFL game I've played in my life. EA copies and pastes their Maddens every year with just roster changes. I think a lot of people will relish the idea that someone else can finally develop their own take on the NCAA football games.

deth420
deth420

I  cant believe people still buy these games! "oh this year the team has new jerseys, I have to get this!"

sdkingsht
sdkingsht

it would be a huge undertaking for someone to try & compete at this point w/EA on the football front. & honestly i've enjoyed the last two editions of Madden & think they're doing a lot to change the game w/Madden 13. they're good at what they do. NBA Live fell WAY OFF & just got old but EA has always been the king of football games. 

aqkamboh
aqkamboh

We can judged that there are a so tough competition between these teams and a lot of fans crazy about this news.

maxwell97
maxwell97

Generally I don't agree with the application of anti-trust laws to something like a video game - the laws were intended to prevent price gouging on essential commodities, not to ensure a variety of entertaining luxury items on the shelf. This case is sillier than most, because it's about a genre that naturally trends towards a "monopoly" for a dominant title. Football is football, and unless the quality of a new product is vastly higher than the established, consumers want the established, so they can play it with all the others who have already purchased it, just as people buy Windows because everybody else has bought Windows. So, in this case, anti-trust laws are punishing the company BECAUSE it gave customers what they wanted. Not a unique occurrence, but still unfortunate.

Maxor127
Maxor127

Take Two will make a game.  They'd be stupid not to since obviously the fanbase is still there.

MJ12-Conspiracy
MJ12-Conspiracy

The sports games in and of themselves are as devoid of innovation as anything could be.....

The genre has evolved only at the beginning of each console cycle because that's about the only time they can do anything different.....

Untrue I say.....if you released these games every other year, if the license allowed such a thing the dev team could spend more time on creating an engine and the different modes they want to add or that fans want.....and that goes for all genres, if war games came out every other year....COD every other year could see a more evolved game on every entry with way more content, the DLC would be more meaningful too in a way and they could do more than just maps...main thing is each franchise wouldn't seem as bad, you'd still have all these games but the context of it wouldn't be as bad.....but companies like EA and Activition are too greedy, they want easy quick cash for little to no effort and the really good studios end up getting the same angry glare when they screw up that the big megapublisher get's when it finishes a day of business.....it's not fair but it's a fact of life....

IDK, this is an interesting read, I didn't think about this when the original story hit so there's that....

twztid13
twztid13

PLEASE let the platiffs' lawyers read this!! DON'T SETTLE!

OurSin-360
OurSin-360

Can't wait till "Backbreaker : NCAA" comes out!  /sarcasm/

immortality20
immortality20

The poster forgot to mention how Epic's new engine will significantly decrease costs to next gen game making, and trying to paint EA in the darkest corner possible. Which is awesome to do on the internet, as with anything that is big or popular. He would of complained if they didn't give it up, or complain if they did. The point is they'll always complain about something.

speed45823
speed45823

No one has to take an EA football engine and copy it. As it is, it's tainted with all kinds of bad s*it. Best is for other companies to start fresh with solid and innovative ideas that will really liven up the franchise. (You won't know what you are getting if all you are getting is a bowl of cereal everyday). Put that context into EA's monopolizing games.

Ronaldo27
Ronaldo27

People assume 2K would be in a better position to compete against EA Sports. However, considering their football engine will be almost a decade old when they start developing a NCAA 2K15, they would do better starting fresh. Also, the football game team was probably disbanded years ago. In the end, I don't think anyone will be in a good position of facing EA Sports in that field.

comiccollector5
comiccollector5

Football games can be fun but there really isn't too much innovation left in a football game.  There has already been Blitz for the extreme version of Football and their are plenty of Football Managers to just manage a team.  There is only little tings left.  They should just have a dlc/update every year and make the be all end all game each console cycle or something.  I also like that is a monopoly because if it wasn't, everyone would be making./flooding the game market.  We don't need infinite games and it's only going to (if not already) lead video games in a bustable bubble.  Possibly get some new developers to work on the game.

Sic133
Sic133

 @whitetiger3521 I think it expires in 2015 or '16 but they will probably renew it. The NFL wants full control over its product and just handing over to one company is good in their books. Unless by then the NFL changes its stance due to poor sales since thats one thing they won't tolerate. 

Sic133
Sic133

 @vicecitysaint Well.. they are in the business to make money and a shitload of it. It sucks but thats the nature of the beast. 

Jab7604
Jab7604

 @DRYCELL21

 It was the NFL that sold the liscense to EA blame them not EA, the NFL is very picky about who owns there liscense, thats why you only see one brand of uniform, one brand making the helmets and so on.

DRYCELL21
DRYCELL21

I am not being biased against Madden either for all u haters. I just want a good football game for once, like everyone here. If Madden was good or somewhat decent I wouldnt be typing this or commenting. I would love Madden if it was good..

Entropis
Entropis

 @Ghosthunter54 EA owns exclusivity rights to football so if 2k made a football game it would have to have no ties at all to NFL or NCAA.  There is no exclusivity license for the NHL currently but NHL 2k has been beaten by EA's NHL series year in and year out.  The opposite is true with basketball with EA pulling out after NBA 2k series is far more advanced and popular than EA's series.

Jab7604
Jab7604

 @checkrazor1976

 i like NBA 2k, i prefer the simulation style of gameplay, NBA live felt to arcade like, i dont mind live at all i just adapted to the style of 2k, im hoping NBA elite 12 or whatever its called will do the storied franchise justice

Dieofnv
Dieofnv

 @Jab7604 (i know its your  opinion ) i just cant help to say that -_____- you sir make no sence of course is going to look stiff and clunky if you look at it now, the animation at that time (in my opinion) was far superior and the presentation was of the roof and dont talk about the grafix ohhh man that game was the best. 

i tried madden 06 and never play another NFL game ever again instead i play blitz and 2k all star     :P

Nezzticle
Nezzticle

 @deth420  The reason people still buy the games every year is because they're college football fans and like to have current rosters.  Does it suck that its 60 bucks, absolutely.  But until 2k steps up after 2014 cfb fans WILL keep buying it because we love the sport.  Don't understand what's not to believe. 

ACWH
ACWH

 @deth420 It's the same with FIFA Football. Not buying FIFA 13 unless it's under £20.

dmblum1799
dmblum1799

 @maxwell97 Anti-trust laws were not categorized by governing "essential" commodities; unfair monopolies have many perverse effects that potentially harm thousands of individuals.

 

For instance, EA's monopoly may be putting thousands of people out of work, depriving their families of health care, housing, etc. It's also discouraging innovation that could result in jobs we could not even predict in areas like graphics or audio. 

 

There's nothing "natural" about one company making a college football game.  The students names aren't even used. The comparison with Windows makes literally no sense at all.

 

So, epic fail on your post. Customers are paying 60 dollars for inferior software right now. That's market inefficiency, in a small but very inefficient way.

Dieofnv
Dieofnv

 @Maxor127  can you  imagine they make a 2k ncaa with the espn presentation for $20 

i would buy 2 copies for the hell of it and give it to some stranger just cause im still saving 20 bucks :P

Infinite_713
Infinite_713

 @Ronaldo27 2K can do it. IMO I believe they need the Euphoria Engine that BackBacker has because of the realism of the players. They don't need to scrape their engine entirely...I'm sure they'll come up with something but I don't believe they'll make a college football game. That's a rookie mistake unless it gets a 10/10.

Jab7604
Jab7604

 @Dieofnvi personally played the hell out of madden 05 that year and i owned both games, i felt that madden had smoother animations and controld didnt stick as much, madden 06 was pretty abysmal. teh QB cone was retarded and useless.

 

maxwell97
maxwell97

 @dmblum1799

 No one can possibly be "harmed" by EA, unless they pay for something they don't get.  If people are willingly paying $60 for a game, it's worth it to them, regardless of whether YOU classify it as "inferior."  If it's not worth it to them, then they don't buy it, and no harm comes to them in this case either - unless you're arguing that they have a legal right to a cheap football game, which is ridiculous.

 

 

In either case, it's up to the consumer to make the decision about what to buy, and your opinion of good value is irrelevant. What's NOT up to the consumer is how the rights to the NFL or NCAA are licensed.  These rights belong to the owners/managers of the respective organizations, not the consumer or the courts.  No one has a right to a game bearing these licenses, unless the owners of the licenses agree to let them have it, and again, no one is harmed by not owning such a game (they may be happier if they had it, but choosing not to make someone happy is not equivalent to harming them).

 

 

As for "putting thousands of people out of work," this is also a ridiculous idea.  Keep in mind that EA football games are not in competition only with other football games; they're in competition with innumerable other entertainment offerings that consumers might choose to buy instead.  Are you saying that EA's "unfair monopoly" is stopping other companies from making other sports games, shooters, strategy games, RPG's?  Is it stopping movies from being made?  Artists from releasing songs?  TV shows from going on cable?

 

 

If you're going to get upset about a monopoly, I'd suggest going after publicly-financed  education.  It's obviously overcharging for an inferior understanding of basic economics, not to mention individual rights.

blitzinD
blitzinD

 @Jab7604

 Control was the best part of 2K5: playing a DL actually worked... you had choices of DL special moves, pre-snap adjustments were better, the RB control was superior, the QB passing was better... frankly I have no clue what you're talking about. Madden 05 better than 2K5??? No way.

 

Madden is the scourge of videogame football, and has been for a decade.

maxwell97
maxwell97

 @ACWH  @dmblum1799

 I'd argue that the Call of Duty brand is as important in terms of market share as the NFL license.  For both, it's up to the managers to decide how their brand is used - the public has no right to it, or to video games based on it.  If no one ever again made an NFL game or a Call of Duty game, no one would actually be harmed by it, because there's no such thing as a right to licensed video games; so, having only one offering with these licenses harms no one, and it's not appropriate to use the law to force more offerings onto the market.  And regardless, there IS competition - if someone doesn't like EA's football game, they can buy other sports games, other types of games, even find a game from the old 2K series if they want to; or buy movies or music or books or whatever.

ACWH
ACWH

 @maxwell97  @dmblum1799 Bad analogy again. Call of Duty isn't a licensed sport like football. If only one developer gets to use the naming rights and likeness of the sportsmen then that's a monopoly. Others aren't even being given the chance the compete. What needs to happen is an outright ban on exclusive rights. Same way a single TV channel is not allowed to purchase all the rights to televise matches.

maxwell97
maxwell97

@dmblum1799 @maxwell97 You can't just pick any arbitrary commonality of products and call it a "market." Football games are competing in a larger market of entertainment products. Saying there's a monopoly in the "NCAA football video game market" is like saying there's a monopoly in the "Call of Duty video game market." True, only one company makes Call of Duty games, but that doesn't make it a monopoly or usable as an example of market inefficiency. I'd advise that you think about your arguments a little more before you toss out a word like "idiotic."

dmblum1799
dmblum1799

 @maxwell97 "It's up to the consumer to decide".

 

Okay, you mention that I have choice as a consumer: how many NCAA football games do i as a consumer have a choice to buy? Oh, one. 

 

But you make the idiotic argument that because I can go to Disneyland as opposed to buying an NCAA football game. But I don't like theme parks? How is that choice?

 

Efficiency in markets is about providing competition in *the market that is in question* Is that too complicated to understand? There is no competition in the NCAA football video game market. If you think you know anything about markets or economics please stop embarrassing yourself..

 

You wrote two posts that were long and idiotic, so it's obvious you have a lot of spare time on your hands. So, to learn about economics go:

 

 

http://economistsview.typepad.com/

 

http://delong.typepad.com/

 

http://www.cepr.net/index.php/beat-the-press/