Gamers sue EA over football exclusivity

Pair of Madden purchasers going to court over "blatantly anticompetitive conduct" by locking down NFL, NCAA, and Arena Football licenses.

Electronic Arts already has antitrust issues on its plate, given that the company is currently seeking federal approval to acquire Take-Two Interactive. Last week that plate got a little more crowded when a pair of gamers in Washington, DC and California filed suit against the publisher in the US District Court of Northern California, alleging "blatantly anticompetitive conduct" in the way that it has cornered the football-gaming genre.

The class-action complaint focuses on Electronic Arts' actions since 2004, when Take-Two Interactive's NFL 2K5 was released at a $19.99 price point and sold more than 2.9 million copies in the US, according to NPD figures. Take-Two's previous football game, ESPN NFL Football, sold fewer than 450,000 copies in the US. Meanwhile, 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.

The suit does not address Take-Two's bid to reenter the football market with former player licenses but no professional league attached. That game, All-Pro Football 2K8, sold a little more than 275,000 copies at US retailers, according to the NPD Group.

The plaintiffs are asking for restitution and damages for those who 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.

A representatives with Electronic Arts said the publisher could not comment on pending legal matters. The plaintiffs had not responded to GameSpot's requests for comment as of press time.

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854 comments
mos2000
mos2000

2k5 was one of the greatest football games to come out.  Honestly nothing EA has done since then, with all the modern technology, that rivals it. Yet they got an exclusive deal with the NFL and ESPN; ESPN's intergration being a major component of 2k5's presentation success and appeal. This suit is just. EA's actions were appalling then, and are appalling now - all about profit and gimmicks, and no substance. We've already have seen what lack of quality EA still exhibits even when challenged (NBA Live). Just imagine the football experience gamers could have enjoyed if 2K was still in the NFL market. Madden would have probably taken a recess too, and at least tried to come out with something better.

dmastor
dmastor

I just found out today that John Madden and the NFL head man Cordell is in bed together. 2k come back please and soon

wescan40
wescan40

I totally agree, perfect competition does drive down prices and as a result of said competition, innovation and overall game improvement florishes. That being said, since EA aquired the rights to be the only NFL game availible they have NOT done very much to inprove upon the standard that was NFL2K5, I haven't bought a Madden game yet but I still play 2K5. The players there(2K5) seem to be oriented in the space of the game and rooted to the virtual ground, whereas, in the madden game player seem to either float, slide, or skate accross the field rather than run, plus, they have too many canned animations that you as the player have no control over, so it's more like watching than like playing, and when you buy a game to play but end up having to watch the computer play,(because you can't control all of the players movements) it makes the experience very fustrating, for me at least. Yeh, NFL 2k REALLY needs to come back!

ThECoLoNeL00
ThECoLoNeL00

i didnt care for the 2k franchise but id like them to come back just so the developers can put more effort into madden games

Da_Skull_King
Da_Skull_King

cant wait for ea to loose exclusivity and 2k and return as the rightful better

Grimmson2
Grimmson2

I'm waiting patiently till 2021 for ESPN NFL 21K Which i'm asuming if it's made it will Blow EA out of the water!!!

Grimmson2
Grimmson2

:( If you vow never to buy a EA sports game!!! :(

sofakingsweet25
sofakingsweet25

i'm still playing 2k5, forget the new generation of madden. It's a pain to wait for EA sports's attempt at very very very slowly "improving" the only decent football game us gamers want to play. Wake me up when all the madden glitches and superhuman jumps are fixed.

dellis66
dellis66

The video game industry is less mature than the TV business. In TV there are a handful of strong players with ample resources that keep the playing field balanced and very competitive (ratings). Just like TV, the video games industry is basically in the entertainment sector, but less developed, and the strong balancing forces (other companies w/ $$$) do not exist yet. You do not see the NFL and NCAA having an exclusive deal with NBC or ESPN, which I know would be financially impossible, but would also be grossly anti-competitive. Same applies to what EA did, no matter how great Madden is, the license agreements by themselves allow for far too many competitive advantages in arguably the most lucrative segment of the market. In a growing industry with developing companies this definitely hurts because it's blatantly predatory nature. I thought there were laws in place to avoid this.

reviewninja
reviewninja

is EA really that scared of 2k sports? if you want to prove you are better than someone you dont send them away forever so your the best by default you want to prove it man to man (or in this case game to game) and EA is trying to monopolize the industry with such garbage year in and year out with the madden series. you can check the gamespot scores on the maddens 06-09 and they are nothing above 8 which is only "good" not "great" like madden 2005 (they had competition back then mind you) after 2013 Madden needs to get off their high horse and end this 8-year disgrace and let 2k or ANYONE else create an NFL game. shoot this is similar to george bush being in order for 8 years and doing an average job at best and was only good when he was senator but once having exclusive rights to do whatever he wanted he failed and was an awful president.

sobipalakanis
sobipalakanis

They need to make NFL 2k9 because nfl 2k5 was awesome.

sobipalakanis
sobipalakanis

They need to make NFL 2k9 because nfl 2k5 was awesome.

osxgp
osxgp

skasucks478, the problem is that people like names they can relate to so they can live vicariously through their controller. How many people dream of being a sports star? Plenty. How many people dream that they are their favorite sports star when they play as the character they admire? Probably a lot. I understand the lawsuit, but I don't see it going anywhere. Sports fans tend to buy Madden so they can play as their favorite team. Having a game that doesn't have established teams or players kinda sucks.

skasucks478
skasucks478

EA is not a "Monopoly" on football games. Yes, their football games may be the only ones with the ability to use NFL team names. That does not make it a monopoly. That is like saying a news network with an exclusive interview with a movie star, sports star, or politician should be sued! Because another network won't be able to get that interview or show it. EA hasn't stopped other games from making football games, since they don't have that right. Other companies just can't use the name of teams and players. Hell, make a game and have Terrell Owens as Tyrell Pwns. All the baseball games since I can remember haven't had Barry Bonds on the Giants roster, but there is a player with his same stats. That never made me angry and wishing to sue him because I couldn't play him. EA also didn't just one day decide, "Hey we'll put the NFL license on our games, so that no other company can use the teams!" They were presented with the opportunity to do so, and they took it. The NFL is a business itself and they want to make money in any market possible. Sorry guys, but that's how it works. This is just business. Just sit back and watch the show. I personally don't support sue-happy people. Yet, the economy is bad, so they might need the money so they don't lose their house, or their parents don't lose their house...since that's probably where they still live.

joemailj2
joemailj2

You're all overlooking one little issue...IT WAS THE NFL THAT APPROACHED EA WITH THE IDEA OF AN EXCLUSIVE DEAL! Are these knuckleheads going to sue the NFL too? I don't see them winning this lawsuit. How about EA sues over the exclusive deal that Take Two got the MLB to sign? Oh wait, it's not TRULY exclusive. They just made it so that THIRD PARTY developers, like EA, who made better baseball games to theirs, wouldn't be able to make those games anymore. Guess Take Two were under the impression they could outsell Microsoft(who canned their attempt at making an MLB game) and Sony(whose MLB series had been faltering since the PS2 came out) but they didn't want the competition that EA's excellent MVP game gave them. To those who pray at the shrine of the old 2K football games, I'm sorry your game went away. It WOULD suck if a game I loved and bought annually couldn't be made anymore. That being said, I took the $20 leap and bought 2K5 when it came out(after already buying Madden, of course). Other than more colorful graphics and a better TV-style presentation, I have to say it was inferior to Madden in every other area, including the one that matters most-gameplay. The passing game was especially terrible, where it basically felt like you were catapulting the ball down the field. But it's just one of those Coke vs. Pepsi kind of things, though. Can't say I was sad to see it go. They weren't going to get any more of my money after that game anyway.

Oldkingsman
Oldkingsman

Ok. All of you haters out there, check this out. What if your little game of madden was taken away from you, just up an gone one day? Would you care? I know most madden fans would lose their freaken minds! I think 2k5 was the best football game to date, and at 20$ too! EA could not handle the comp. Be real. They knew they were in for a fight and ran like a scared little bytch! Can't beat em buy em. No respect for ea, ever!

jspro8152
jspro8152

The rule falls under different law. They have exclusive rights. It's like 360 making a law suit for having Metal Gear only on the PS3. It's content. On the other hand it doesn't matter because the 2K football games sucked.

Optiks
Optiks

Anyone who thinks this suit doesn't have merit has no idea what they're talking about. Read up on Sections 2 and 7 of the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914. These two sections, in conjunction with the attempted buyout of Take Two by Electronic Arts are what prompted this lawsuit. It has legs. The timing of its filing is not coincidental. If you've ever bought an EA Madden, Arena Football, or NCAA Football game since 2005, and are serious when you say, "Good luck you these guys..." or, "Stick it to EA..." or anything else of the sort, you should contact one of the firms representing the plaintiffs to give the suit some momentum. Stop talking for once, and start acting like you want to do something.

rrandolph
rrandolph

I don't understand why you guys are saying just don't buy the game or that All-Pro Football came out and we didn't buy it. Well I brought it. It was a great game but like everybody else has said we want to play with the current teams. What is so hard to understand about that? EA has made it so if you want to play as your fav. current star you have to buy their game. That equals NO COMPETITION!!!!!!!! Yes EA is smart, they are very smart, but at the same time being smart doesn't always mean you do ethical things. Usually smart people are the very ones doing unethical things because they are smart and believe they can get away with it. I don't know if this is legal or not I guess we will find out soon, but it is definitely a monopoloy. I also find it funny that the year Madden finally looks like it's getting it's act together this comes out. They've have put in more features this year than they have for the last 3 yrs. combined! I believed they were feeling the heat from the community and got their act together. It doesn't seem that this year's Madden will be the same let down the other Maddens have been.

BigBoi17
BigBoi17

And for the ppl who say "Just don't buy the games", shut the hell up...We all don't play WOW and RPG's. I like shooting and sports games, especially sports. I like to play with some of my fav. players that i've seen on t.v. Microsoft has a lot of money, but they don't buy ALL the comp. Stick with WOW....

BigBoi17
BigBoi17

Look, this is what most of the gamers are saying...EA sports is a marketing giant wit a lot of money. A lot of companies can't compete with them money wise. EA won the bid for rights to the NFL license, but who has as much money as EA? Noone. Take Two vs. EA is like Mayweather vs. Iron Mike. Both considered the best in their weightclass, but Mike would just demolish him. What if Bill Gates competed for the bid, and won? We would be stuck with NFL Fever for a few years, and all the EA fans would talk about how unfair it is and that everyone doesn't like NFL Fever. The same applies to Madden and 2K, everyone doesn't like Madden, and the next-gen Maddens' the last few years have sucked. At one point, EA was trying to buy the NBA license too, and NBA Live has sucked major ass the last few years(I really would've been pissed). Back when 2K was out, I didn't discriminate Madden, I usually buy both games. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but I felt 2K5 was really pushing the envelope. Not too long after that, EA buys the license. The first time it ,wasn't a bid...EA ran some of that "control" game to the NFL, and now they just running with it. NFL can control what goes into the game. Now EA is trying to buy Take-Two, that doesn't seem Ironic to anybody?

skayne
skayne

lol... sigh. I'm glad a few other aren't as blinded as the majority. I'll reiterate what others said again! The NFL agreed to this as well, where is there heat? EA had the right to do this, it is completely legal. No one is stopping 2k from making football games. If you are TRULY looking for a good game who the **** cares what it says on the jersey, a good game will be a good game. Guess what, you didnt want to buy All-Pro Football 2k8, that is your problem. EA doesnt OWN the football game genre, they own the license to the NFL names, that is it. So no you are wrong. No one is forcing you to buy EA football games. Others do exist. EA is just a smart business and is hated because of it, the hate is so terribly unjustified it's crazy. @REMLOC Please tell me how you would change the game of football in order to release a new game e\/ery year? It's not possible, im honestly surprised they were able to keep the genre ali\/e this long. Like i said before, you can only push this genre so far before it will just be the same old thing with new graphics. This is a reality gamers must accept.

REMLOC
REMLOC

IT'S ABOUT TIME ! I FOR ONE HAVE NEVER TRULY LIKED MADDEN AND I FEEL THAT EA WENT FOR EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS JUST TO KEEP FROM HAVING TO COMPETE WITH OTHER GREAT GAMES LIKE NFL FEVER OR 2K, AND IN RETURN THEY GIVE US FOOTBALL FANS THE SAME GAME OVER AND OVER AGAIN WITH A FEW TWERKS HERE AND THERE. COME ON! THEY NEED TO BE STRIPPED OF THAT EXCLUSIVE LICENSE ASAP!

fiercedeity901
fiercedeity901

this is dumb...the NFL said OK to the purchase of the license...so it's not EA's fault for taking such a great deal that's going to make them more money in the process...the NFL said ok...i'm sure 2K woulda done the same thing if they had that deal

s3NoXeRs3
s3NoXeRs3

to skyne. "i will reiterate what so many already said: don't buy the games." Ok ea is a monoloply there isnt any other NFL game out there. So what are u gonna buy All pro football hahah yeah right. That game is a joke. I wanna play a NFL game with current NFL players not some has beens. I live in canton the Football Hall of Fame city. The HOF is right down the road from my house. I dont wanna play a football game with people who are in teh HOF. I wanna play a game with the superstars of today. And with ea making the football games like they did im surprised anyone is gonna buy 09. But i am gonna admit this years madden does look the best out of the years ive played them. But i will give ea a final chance to redeem there selfs with this years madden. If its not good im not gonna buy nemore ea games. Its been 3 years since next gen has been out. And if they cant master it by then it looks like they never will.

iamonfire
iamonfire

To those saying EA can do what it wants, its a free/capitalist country. Yes....except we have these things called ANTITRUST LAWS as stated in the article. "Freedom" in this case doesn't mean you do whatever you want, it means you do whatever you want as long as its not crazy (ie murder, buying every business etc.) ;-) To those saying "stop whining, EA didn't put a gun to your head and make you buy these games" Don't be so dense. The whole point of the lawsuit is that if you are interested in football games they ARE forcing you to buy theirs...because their game is the ONLY game available. So your argument is that because EA wants lots of money you should just give up your interests and hobbies or support a company that is screwing you over. Nice choices. Really people if taketwo can make a profit off of 2k5 for $20 how can it possibly be fair for EA to limit your options to their $50-60 game every year?

Ocharlesincharg
Ocharlesincharg

These people obviously don't realize that by making EA give up a butt ton of money, they will be hindering the quality of the other games they put out. thsoe games like Burnout, any other sports game, the Sims, battle field. you name it EA has tried at it, and once in a while they suceed. those once in a whiles are not funded by a magic money tree, they are funded by the massive amounts of profits brought in by games like madden and other shoe in products. and for this competition thing, we live in a capitolist society, which means freedom. EA can do whatever the hell they want to, and the government (sueing them) cant do anything about it. Yes, i dont like the fact that EA puts out Sub par games and yes i read reviews and dont buy games that i wont get my $60 worth, maybe you should do the same.

skayne
skayne

Reading some of these comments are great. I'm glad people are finally realizing that EA is just doing what is smart. If you don't like the games i will reiterate what so many already said: don't buy the games. This law suit is a joke. "EA made me buy Madden, i demand compensation." These kids are a disgrace just trying to make some money. No one was forced to buy these games, you chose to, so don't complain. And as far as the quality of football games declining. I agree competition does make more higher quality. But in the case of a game BASED off an existing game model, you must honestly understand that after a while there will be little room for improvement beyond a graphics update and new roster. You can only change so much before its stops being a football SIMULATION and starts becoming something that isnt even football. This is how so many genres die, you either can't innovate them any further, or technical advances change the game so much it becomes something new entirely. At this point all EA should do is release a Madden game twice e\/ery console lifespan, one at the beginning and one after they understand the tech of the new console. And in between just do roster updates. There isnt much more beyond that.

philly215
philly215

all those dumbasses who say DONT BLAME EM obviously dont remember the good old days of nfl 2k madden nfl fever gameday man we had so many titles to choose from...it was so much fun!

kothos
kothos

So what if they have monopolized the football game market. It's just good business people. Not saying I like them or that they don't stink as of late, because I don't play sports games anyway and the quality has suffered but it's just good business on their part.

tH3_cH3a7_027
tH3_cH3a7_027

well.... good luck gamers. 2k5 is wayy better.

WR83
WR83

Interesting

waheeb2020
waheeb2020

well, even winning eleven suffered from the exclusivity of soccer by EA that they created fiction teams and players

packfan22
packfan22

EA should get a lot of the blame for the bad football games of late. Lets not forget the NFL decided the fans don't matter when it signed the fat deal with EA. The NFL has shown a history of this type of behavior. The NFL Network steals games that were free for the fans before every year.

Jedilink109
Jedilink109

I don't like football regardless, but I still think it's completely stupid how EA has monopolized all football leagues in the US. That's so dumb.

Quade_Frampton
Quade_Frampton

they are sucky games no one should buy them anyways

PixyMisao
PixyMisao

I'm glad someone had the balls to take this to court, even though calling it an underdog story is the understatement of the year, and they probably don't have a legal leg to stand on.

pwner372
pwner372

sweet. I love my madden on my psp and I could get money back for it. awesome.

RobNyack
RobNyack

There is no question these exclusivity deals are bad for the consumer. Just look at the reviews Madden has gotten since the deals were signed and look at the scores before the deals. Madden rested on it's laurels and got fat and lazy. There is no arguing that point. We NEED these guys competing against each other. The consumer ALWAYS win when there is competition. ALWAYS. EA took a shortcut and we the consumers have been paying for it in higher game prices and lower game quality.

thepyrethatburn
thepyrethatburn

Given my usual loathing for class action lawsuits, I hope that these gamers lose. Everyone says "something needs to be done". Well, if you feel that strongly about it, don't buy EA products.....at all. Yes, that means that, if you're a C&C fan or a Burnout fan or a fan of any other series, you'll have to exert some (gasp) self-control. However, if you really hate EA that much, then the end results should be worth it.

Frankly, parts of this suit continue the dangerous precedent of placing the blame for your own actions on someone else. Noone was forced at gunpoint to buy an EA football game. Perhaps, if this goes through, we should revisit the idea of suing Take 2 for any "GTA-inspired" shootings. After all, since personal responsibility for one's choices is obviously not an option in this case, we should expand that for all gaming-related cases. I wonder how many people on this topic would cheer that idea on.

tootergray34
tootergray34

let's wonder who has better lawyers? EA...or a couple gamers... if you don't like it don't buy it.

BTWilliam04
BTWilliam04

Everyone needs to shut up. Don't buy the game if you have such a problem with it. Take Two made another football game last year and you guys barely bought 250 k copies. Shows how much you support their games. While we're on the subject, how about the baseball monopoly that Take Two has, They can't make a decent game to save their lives. The Triple Play/ MVP series that EA put out was far superior. Why not just sue Take Two as well? This is stupid. Bull **** lawsuits like this will only raise the price of games. If you should be **** at anyone, whine at these two suing, they are the ones who make it tough for small companies to try to come in and make good games as well as for big companies to try to come out with what we ask for. Stop all the whining and just go back to playing the crap you enjoy. BTW out.

j_oblivion
j_oblivion

Also complain about how there is no Madden for PC. And because of the exclusivity there is no actual new football game for PC and people have to end up modding it to the 2008-2009 season.