A gridiron grudge match years in the making is finally nearing kickoff. A 2008 class-action suit over Electronic Arts' NFL exclusivity is getting closer to the courtroom, as EA today notified those who have purchased its football games since January 1, 2005, that it's time to exclude themselves from the suit or be bound by its eventual outcome.
The notice, which is available in full on a website for the case set up by class-action administration firm Gilardi and Co., details the allegations. It also specifies who qualifies as a class member (essentially those who purchased EA's Madden, NCAA Football, or Arena Football games on consoles or handhelds) and how people can exclude themselves from the suit if they want to keep their own right to sue Electronic Arts on this matter. Those who don't exclude themselves will have to accept any eventual settlement or judgment in the case.
The suit was originally filed by a pair of gamers in Washington, DC, and California who allege the publisher engaged in "blatantly anticompetitive conduct" in the way that it cornered the football-gaming genre. The complaint focuses on Electronic Arts' actions since 2004, when Take-Two Interactive's NFL 2K5 was released at a $19.99 price point and EA dropped the price of its Madden 2005 from $49.95 to $29.95 in response.
"This vigorous competition benefited consumers," according to the suit. "Electronic Arts could have continued to compete by offering a lower price and/or a higher quality product. Instead, Electronic Arts quickly entered into a series of exclusive agreements with the only viable sports football associations in the United States: the National Football League, the Arena Football League, and NCAA Football."
With no Take-Two competitor the following year, the suit notes that Electronic Arts raised the price of Madden 2006 back to $49.95, an increase of nearly 70 percent. The suit also brings up Electronic Arts' attempted acquisition of Take-Two, saying that it "would remove one of the few companies with the ability and expertise to compete in the market for interactive football software" if EA somehow lost its exclusive deals, which are set to expire in 2013.
The plaintiffs asked for restitution and damages for those who have purchased an Electronic Arts football game since August of 2005, disgorgement of all profits made as a result of anticompetitive actions, and that the infringing agreements be declared null and void.