Judge flags EA's football monopoly defense

Northern California court allows Madden, NCAA, Arena Football anticompete class-action suit to proceed; hearing scheduled for January 14.

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Electronic Arts' Madden NFL and NCAA Football franchises dominate the competition in their respective fields, mostly because the perennial bestsellers don't have any competitors to speak of. Soon, however, that may change, as a Northern California judge has ruled against EA's motion to dismiss a class-action suit that takes exception with the publisher's exclusivity licenses with the National Football League, the Arena Football League, and NCAA Football.

This situation could be resolved with a well-placed hug.

The suit, which was initially filed in June 2008 by a pair of gamers from Washington, DC, and California, alleges that EA has and continues to engage in "blatantly anticompetitive conduct" since 2004. At that time, EA and Take-Two Interactive released competing NFL Football products, resulting in a pricing war that saw Take-Two drop the price of its NFL 2K5 to $19.99 and EA cut Madden 2005's sticker tag to $29.95 in response.

However, the suit alleges that rather than continue the pricing war with Take-Two, EA secured the aforementioned exclusivity deals. With no Take-Two competitor the following year, the suit noted that Electronic Arts raised the price of Madden 2006 back to $49.95, an increase of nearly 70 percent. Madden NFL's current going rate retails for as much as $59.95.

As per the most recent ruling, which was first spotted by GamePolitics, a judge said that the plaintiffs' suit will be allowed to proceed, though he narrowed the applicable class to residents of the original filers' home regions of Washington, DC, and California.

"As the court understands these allegations, interactive football software will not sell if it does not use the names, logos and other markers of teams that actually compete in the NFL," the judge said in his ruling. "There is, in effect, no market for interactive football software in a virtual or fictitious setting. If true--as the court must at this point accept--this adequately alleges that there are no substitutes for interactive football software without the markers of actual teams and players."

Though the judge's decision is significant for the class, it is by no means an indication of the final outcome of the case. "The present complaint alleges that the names and logos of actual teams and players are essential to market interactive football software," the judge noted. "Whether plaintiffs will be able to back this allegation up with evidence is a matter left for another day."

That plaintiffs' motion for class certification is currently scheduled for September 24, with the full hearing expected to commence January 14, 2010.

Discussion

261 comments
terpriders
terpriders

I agree that competition enhances the product, but 2k5 was not as great of game as everyone remembers. The NFL wante only one video game amde and placed the license up for bid and 2K bid riduclously low. EA easily beat them. If people are going to be mad, direct it at the NFL and 2k. The NFL has excliusive contracts with many companies such as Directv and Reebok. Anti-trust and exclusive agreements are being tried in the Supreme Court. The NFL already had a major decision go in their favor at the Appeals court level and now they are seeking to end the anit-trust debate. It looks like they, the NBA and NHL will win, and the exclusive contracts will continue. As for these bozos filing this suit, they have no chance of winning because their claims go unsubstaniated.

Oldkingsman
Oldkingsman

Look. Everybody who says 2k5 or 2k in general sucks is a EA suck butt. Period. I can't stand EA. But not just because i don't care for their games, but because they and the NFL destroyed my options when it comes to video football! Not cool. As much as i hate EA and that so called excuse for a pigskin game..i always was open to other people and their critique of 2k football. I mean why would i care, i had the best football game in town, in my humble opinion. But now, the kid gloves are off! Those who talk down about a company or game that isn't even given a chance to play on an even playing field (NFL rights) shows you are just as spineless as EA and need to be taken down a few notches. Please, let justice prevail! Until then, i guess there is always 2k5.

valdarez
valdarez

@DirkXXVI Big difference Dirk, in the Sci Fi category there are a lot of options available (Star Wars games, Mass Effect, Dark Sector, tons of games). In the Football Genre, there is only one due to the NFL being a virtual monopoly. I believe that they allowed the NFL to be a monopoly with the stipulation that it could not create other monopolies. In this case, it has done so with relation to football games. Thanks to the exclusive license, there is no longer any competition. This has hurt the quality of football games (look at Madden 2006-2009, they're all jokes game play wise), the consumers (by removing their ability to 'choose' what they want to play), and protected EA (by allowing them to produce a lesser quality game year in and year out due to lack of competition).

DirkXXVI
DirkXXVI

"This is no different from a suit against Bungie that they have to make Halo 3 for a non-Microsoft product, as effectively Microsoft has a "monopoly" on Halo, and without the Halo name no other FPS game has a chance to sell." Bungie created Halo, which gives them a right to do what they want with the Halo name. Your argument would only apply if EA Sports was responsible for creating the NFL. On top of that the NFL is already getting looked at by the government for engaging in the same practices as EA Sports in part because it's viewed in many circles as abuse of their special exception status in regards to antitrust laws.

Sparty_On
Sparty_On

I hope these people that are suing EA loses since this lawsuit is baseless. EA isn't monopoly as a lot of you have claim 2K5 sucked it wasn't real football video game unlike Madden which is the best every year and that is fact. And those that say 2K5 was a video game you don't know what your talking about because it flat out sucked. The only great football games were Techmo Super Bowl in 90's, NFL Biltz, Madden which is the best every year as I said before it gets better every year.

BirgitteSilver
BirgitteSilver

This has no chance. This is no different from a suit against Bungie that they have to make Halo 3 for a non-Microsoft product, as effectively Microsoft has a "monopoly" on Halo, and without the Halo name no other FPS game has a chance to sell. There are holes on so many levels with the argument, but most of you can't see past your dislike of EA.

Freddy
Freddy

It's going to happen people. NFL2K5 was the best football on the market. Had they continued the franchise, who knows what type of damage they would do on the market. They clearly have the best engine for a sports game. Don't look at all star football and judge the company by it. If they had the NFL license, I can promise you NFL2K would be the dominant football title on the market till this day. Glad to see someone is putting an end to EA. That company is garbage.

nurse_tsunami
nurse_tsunami

I hope that EA's exclusivity gets crushed. They have had no reason to innovate to discount their games since there is no real competition anymore. I wonder if Tecmo would consider making a Tecmo Superbowl 2011..... ;)

Nachoking2k2
Nachoking2k2

Figures it takes 4 years for Madden to bring their "A" game.

HELMET1964
HELMET1964

madden football is the best,i will still be getting it this year in august/september and next year for madden 2011 - madden football has alway's been positive the nfl/2k game's were good, madden is alway's better - each to there own true madden fan - the best one ever e.3 - i have played the nfl/2k football game's they are very good but that was then ,this is now - wot i like about madden 09 and madden 10 you can now create your own team with some pretty good player's and put that team into franchise mode and with your own created player etc - and name your created team anything you like you can't do this all in nfl/2k5 - wot ever happen's in jan 2010 in court madden will still come out wot is to be will be - madden is still a class (A) game - if you don't like it ,all i can say is don't buy it

saintsrowCS
saintsrowCS

In the video game business the playing field is very uneven either companies don't have the money to buy the license or don't want it, people don't want a football game without the NFL license, companies don't have much leeway to lose money and a products quality has the ability to get worse (instead of just not improving),

gamepunk86
gamepunk86

finally! man i hope take two gets to make games again. screw ea for their monopolizing.

cdodder
cdodder

Very good news, I really hope these guys win, 2k knew how to make a good football game and they need the opportunity to make them again with the NFL license. EA's Madden franchise can suck it.

anomaly3001
anomaly3001

Wow it is really surprising how many people actually remember how good 2k5 really was! I had soooo much fun with that game, and after I got done whipping my homeboys on da field I'd go into "crib" mode and whip them some more on the air hockey table! man 2k5 was da best ever!

GuyverV
GuyverV

thank god. please crush this monopoly. i still love 2k5

SynOptics_KZ2
SynOptics_KZ2

I hate monopolies. Competition creates better games. It was a sad day in 2004 when they announced exclusitivity for Madden. I hate not having a choice when it comes to football games. Year after year, it's Madden or nothing.

maverick_76
maverick_76

Man I hope these guys win this case. I remember that as soon as Madden got the exclusivity deal their franchise went down the pooper as far as quality and gameplay was concerned. When the 2K series was around EA actually had to try and compete and that made it better for everyone. Who knows, if Take-Two can make NFL 2K11 or 12 and sell it for $39.99 or even cheaper, that has to force EA to sell Madden at that price point as well. This will be a win all around for us gamers if they can pull this off.

Zen_420
Zen_420

@ CWSoccer07..do you have any idea about what you're even talking about? This isn't so much about the price of the games, rather the fact there EA is the only company producing interactive football software, and the plaintiffs claim that with out the names of actual football players and teams, interactive football software can't sell. Which means that EA, since they have the rights to publish the names and teams of the NFL, seemingly run a monopoly on interactive football software, and last time I checked, this was illegal.

CWSoccer07
CWSoccer07

Nothing will happen from this. The price of games are now uniform across PS3 and Xbox 360. They can't use the argument that the prices are jacked up. And it's not EA's fault the NFL agreed to exclusivity deals. Would people be filing a suit against Take-Two if they got the exclusivity deals?

SlamminSammy
SlamminSammy

Power to the people!!!!!! Nice job to the gamers who went through with the lawsuit. Best of luck. Let's get our football gaming glory days back!!!!

DHH34
DHH34

I completely agree with the plaintiffs. Madden needs to grow some balls and stop buying out possibly better football games.

Bgrngod
Bgrngod

I've missed the 2k series all these years. The gaming world would be so much better had it been around to compete year after year.

Henninger
Henninger

The NFL 2K series wuz much better than the Madden Series in every year that 2K Games produced a NFL 2K game in my opinion. I've never liked Madden even way back in the Sega Genesis days. On this site alone, the 2K series has gotten highter ratings or equal ratings when compared 2 Madden for the respective years that the games came out. NFL 2K/Dreamcast-9.9; Madden 2000/PC-7.4, PSX-9.3, N64-9.4 NFL 2K1/Dreamcast-9.9; Madden 2001/PC-7.0, PSX-9.3, N64-9.1, PS2-9.1 NFL 2K2/DC-9.5, PS2-9.5, Xbox-9.1; Madden 2002/PC-6.7, PSX-9.3, N64-9.1, PS2-9.2, Xbox-8.6, GC-8.6 NFL 2K3/PS2-9.6, Xbox-9.1, GC-9.1; Madden 2003/PC-9.2, PS2-9.0, Xbox-8.6, GC-8.6 (PSX didnt have a rating) ESPN Football 2K4/PS2-9.3, Xbox-9.3; Madden 2004/PC-8.8, PS2-9.2, Xbox-9.1, GC-9.1 (PSX didnt have a rating) NFL 2K5/PS2-9.1, Xbox-9.2; Madden 2005/PC-8.8, PS2-9.0, Xbox-9.0, GC-8.8 (PSX didnt have a rating) All-Pro Football 2K8/360-7.5, PS3-7.5; Madden 08/PC-6.5, PS2-7.5, Xbox-7.5, GC-7.5, 360-8.5, PS3-8.5, Wii-8.0 The only year a 2K game lost in ratings on this site is APF2K8 & that wasnt even a NFL game. EA can enjoy it while it lasts but if they lose this lawsuit then Take Two will come out the gates swinging & swinging hard in the battle 4 the best football game.

VFG
VFG

I hope EA loses this one. I think it's complete BS that they were allowed to get this monopoly in the first place.

cajunstrike
cajunstrike

Agreed. The NFL is to blame for allowing Electronic Arts exclusivity.

bumsliepsp
bumsliepsp

I'm not sure how they will be able to back up the allegation that the names and logos of actual NFL teams and players are essential to market interactive football software, but I hope they do. In reality you can market a football game without the NFL license. It just will not be competitive to a game that has an NFL license. So I believe it is unfair to make the plaintiffs prove that the game would be unmarketable. Hopefully it all works out. It would be nice to see a different NFL game for once. Without the competition Madden has been really lacking, in my opinion.

blackace
blackace

NFK 2K5 was without a doubt the best football game for the game consoles that year. EA obviously knew it as well, which is why they sought after the NFL exclusive license. The NFL was stupid enough to allow this. Even though what they did wasn't illegal, it was morally wrong and EA was monopolizing the market with their action. I hadn't bought a Madden game in over 5 years, but finally picked up Madden 09, which is very good. Hopefully the judge will take care of this, but I doubt he'll be able to cancel the contract between EA & NFL. I believe their contract is good until 2013.

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

According to rumors, the NFL approached EA (and several other developers) looking for an exclusivity deal. EA, at the time, was the largest publisher and had the Madden License. It was an easy choice for both the NFL and EA. I hope that EA and the NFL get hit hard with this case and that they are forced to cancel their exclusive contract in replace of a new one that permits other publishers to put out NFL licensed games. Madden got stupid bad in 2006 when it came to Xbox 360 and PS3. Then has slightly improved year after year since. 2010 looks to finally bring things back around to a game worthy of playing. My biggest problem has been that EA has shoved unnecessary modes and game types into Madden every year and they haven't found much that sticks from one version to the next. So, the core gameplay improves slightly and these new features get shoved in there for "added value." I'm ready to see the competition come back full-swing and get EA off their aces and back to making a solid football game. _

thekey
thekey

Madden still sucks I won't be getting Madden 10(Which really should be Madden 16) I hope these guys win.

LosDaddie
LosDaddie

I already pre-ordered Madden10 :)

Gamerleland
Gamerleland

EA's just annoyed every since 2K5 B$%CH slapped them. "You're going to make a better product, AND sell it cheaper?!?!? Well we'll just buy the rights to everything so you can't do it again!!!!!"

Big_Mac4547
Big_Mac4547

Down with EA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NukedUSN
NukedUSN

It's about time. Sure, by losing exclusivity, EA will lose a ton of money as the former 2k enthusiasts go back to NFL 2k_, but in the end, gamers would win, as now EA and Take Two would have to work harder to make their games better, with more substantial improvements from one year to the next. Quality wise, this will make Madden and any future 2k games better overall.

astep
astep

Well, technically, EA had been pushing the NFL for an exclusive deal way before it ever came to light. When EA noticed how good NFL2K5 was and for half the price, they became really worried! Theer was no way they were going to allow another company to gain market share on them, so they made an offer the NFL couldn't refuse!

mgoalie01
mgoalie01

The problem with the argument is that it isn't EA's fault that they have the exclusive license. The NFL put the license up for sale, due in part to them being unhappy with Take Two selling its NFL games for 19.99, and EA outbid everybody. Everybody blames EA, but they knew that their game would sell tons so they paid the most for the license. If Take Two had won, we would still be in the situation today. The Madden series wouldn't exist and only the 2k series would exist. People would still be complaining about the lack of competition and we would still be having this same argument. Would the 2k series have continued to be 19.99 if it was the only football game? Absolutely not. Without having to try and beat Madden in sales, Take Two would have raised the price and gamers would still most likely be having to spend 59.99 on football games. Personally I don't play either of the series, but I don't think that EA should be able to get sued because they outbid Take Two for the license.

Dungeoncrawler1
Dungeoncrawler1

The amount of money you possess should not be allowed to dicatate whether you have competition or not. Its bad for the games, and its bad for the consumer. The only entity it benefits is the exclusive rights owner.

streetsweeperz
streetsweeperz

i hope they lose ea knows it makes a weak game that is why they tried to buy 2k because they get stomped in basketball nobody plays live, they don't care they are the only game in town and that is a big responsibility. thier game should be graet evry year not putting refs on the field or making line blocking correct in 2010, it couild have been done in 06

pablo091377
pablo091377

EA brought this on themselves. Many of us were willing to accept exclusivity with little more than grumbling until they realeased the same game four years in a row. In some ways Madden games have actually gotten worse. They own the ESPN and NFL licenses and they have been unimaginative and unintuitive with the gameplay, commentating, and overall production. THE KING MUST DIE!!

bleedgreen2-1-5
bleedgreen2-1-5

yeh 2K was so great, haha yeah right i got all pro football 2k8 and man did it suck! it was basically 2k5 but with enhanced graphics and generics and washups, the same horrible gameplay, commentary and graphics. 2K really strived to make a great game tho huh? and to think where theyd be now, lets see mlb2k9 sucked horribly nhl2k9 sucked horribly, notice a trend, presentation dosent make a game, like ive always said "put a fancy haltime show in Madden and theyll all finally stop crying"

saintsrowCS
saintsrowCS

Video games is one of the few places where exclusivity hurts the product since you have to pay a premium price and the quality is subpar (DirecTV rips you off in price but the quality is there, games are still on FOX, CBS) and you can't go play other Football games because there are none. Though this does happen because of people who buy Madden because it's the only game in town, don't try Football games without the NFL license and in turn FEEDING THE MACHINE. Also 2K didn't help their cause by not making APF 2K8 the best Football game it could be imagine if they added the euphoria engine or something.

luvthyherbals
luvthyherbals

Didnt you guys know that NFL stands for No Fun League? Exlusivity kills games

ThaGrateOne
ThaGrateOne

I miss 2K football too. EA needs a slap in the face by another NFL game. They own to much :-(

luvthyherbals
luvthyherbals

There is one thing that people are forgetting, The NFL has to aprove of companies like take two to use their names and likeness. I've allways been a madden guy but trust me the lack of competition blows. I've had issues with Madden the last2 years and would of loved to of had an option for this year but I do not think EA is in the wrong here. The nfl put up an exclusive Liscense for sale and EA won. The offer was made to every one. I think even disney was trying to scoop it up. The Real bad guy in this is the nfl, but they do it with every aspect of their business from clothing, tv, direct tv package and Video games.

gamegod
gamegod

im sure that ea probably has an army of lawyers that will make this go away.i hope that 2k will come out again because i miss playing football games.

rckildare
rckildare

Don't get me wrong, I've grown to like Madden... But I do miss the more serious and simulated NFL 2K series as well as the very Arcadey Blitz series. We used to have variety within the sport. Now it's the same game across the board and yes that does kinda suck a bit! I wish I could join in on the class action suit but Im from Chicago. Best of luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

iamdanthaman
iamdanthaman

@ socomn00b That was my point though, APF was not a good idea. What they need to do is make a game that would be like the NCAA football games, which have, not generic players, but the actual stats of the real life players, all you have to do is re-name them. But in this case, you would also have to re-name the teams also. and there would also have to be a team editor where you could import custom logos so you could re-create the real NFL Jerseys.

anomaly3001
anomaly3001

And you talk of how much hard works goes into these games and how much the devs and studio deserves this and that blah blah blah dude! These guys produce hits and you don't have to be a genius to know that these guys make their money back on their games sometimes in their first week! This is why they should lower the price of games especially after they have made their money back! if you sell 1 million copies of a game for $60 that only cost about 5 million to make then yes the price of these games are outrageous!

anomaly3001
anomaly3001

Jestrad your point of this being all business proves how less you know about business! Any economist knows that competition is good for the consumer! U must be some rich guy or something, but for us normal gamers who have a problem with $60 dollar games, we want competition in market like its suppose to be,Go take a economics class!

jestrad
jestrad

Hey Anomaly, I'm having a hard time seeing how EA being the only one who can produced an NFL licensed product is unethical, when they purchased the rights to do so. The NFL was in no way obligated to agree, this was purely business and not a means to oppress the masses. I fully appreciate and respect people's right to choose brands, be it Madden vs. NFL2Kx or Charmin vs. Cottonelle toilet paper. As for the price of games, a gamer knows that each title costs millions to create, test, and market, with no guarantee of success. This costs producers lost of money that must be handed down to guess who? You and Me. Do I wish that 360 and PS3 games cost only $19.99? Of course I do. Unfortunately the cost of business is much higher. As a gamer, I appreciate the hundreds of creative people at work behind my favorite titles, and know that they must be compensated well for doing what they do, or they'll leave and get into other fields where they will. My point is that this is an expensive hobby. Buy the games you really like, rent the ones you might not, ask the guy behind the counter at Gamestop, or read reviews here since $59 isn't cheap.