EA agrees to give up NCAA Football exclusivity

Proposed settlement to antitrust suit over pigskin monopoly would see publisher give up its grip on the college football license for at least five years, starting in 2014.

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The days of Electronic Arts' long-held football exclusivity could be numbered. According to attorneys representing consumers in a class-action antitrust lawsuit over EA's exclusive hold of multiple football league licenses, the publisher has agreed to a proposed settlement that would commit it to going at least five years without NCAA Football exclusivity, as well as paying out a potential $27 million to wronged customers.

EA might not be the only game in town much longer.
EA might not be the only game in town much longer.

Under the terms of the settlement, EA will let its current agreement with the NCAA lapse in 2014 and will not renew it for at least five years. It also stipulates that the publisher won't sign an exclusive deal with the Arena Football League for at least five years.

As for the payouts, consumers who purchased an EA football title for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, or Xbox could be entitled to up to $6.79 per game, while those who purchased a current-generation football game from the publisher could get up to $1.95 per game.

The proposed settlement was filed with the court last week, but must be approved before it can be made final.

Originally filed in 2008, the class-action suit focused on EA's actions since 2004, when Take-Two Interactive's NFL 2K5 was released at a $20 price point and sold more than 2.9 million copies in the US. Take-Two's previous football game, ESPN NFL Football, sold fewer than 450,000 copies in the US. In response to the aggressive pricing of its competitor, EA dropped the price of Madden 2005 from $50 to $30.

Shortly afterward, EA signed exclusive deals with the NFL, NCAA, and AFL. With no competitor from Take-Two the following year, EA released Madden 2006 at a $50 price point.

[UPDATE]: An EA representative confirmed the settlement for GameSpot, saying, "We made a business decision to settle this lawsuit and put the matter behind us. We look forward to continuing our partnerships with the NFL and NCAA."

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