Video Gamers Sue EA Over Exclusive Sports Games

from the yes...-but... dept

Sports video games are a huge business — and for many years, it was an extremely competitive space. I remember a few years back trying to wade through half a dozen different baseball video game titles to figure out which one was worth buying. However, a few years back, video game giant EA started signing “exclusive” deals with a variety of sporting leagues, including the NFL. These “exclusive” deals supposedly meant that only EA could produce games with the names and stats of real players — a huge selling point among most fans. And, of course, in gaining exclusivity, EA has completely cashed in. However, a bunch of angry video gamers are now suing the company for anticompetitive conduct, noting that these exclusive deals killed off all the competition, allowing EA to drastically raise its prices.

Of course, there’s a separate issue that might make these gamers (and other video game companies) happy: with the recent rulings concerning fantasy baseball, it appears that the court system recognizes that player names and stats are public domain data. Thus, even with the “exclusivity,” other video game companies should be able to include real player names and data. They probably still cannot use real league logos, and even player likenesses may be out (which, again, is often a big selling point) — but hopefully it at least brings some competition back to the market.

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Comments on “Video Gamers Sue EA Over Exclusive Sports Games”

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Anonymous Poster says:

Re: Re:

In the case of All Pro Football, 2K Sports (owned by, last I checked, Take-Two Interactive) had purchased a license for player names, data, and likenesses from the NFL Players’ Association, which is a wholly separate organization than the NFL and doesn’t require an NFL license being purchased. (Plus, they didn’t have the ESPN license any more — EA had purchased that, too.)

The really amazing thing to think about is this: between 2K Sports and EA Sports, both companies own exclusive licenses to most of the major American sports leagues; had EA purchased Take-Two Interactive, they would have received 2K Sports — and their sports-related licenses and contracts — in the deal, which would have assured them an almost complete monopoly on professional league-licensed sports games in the United States.

cuzz3000 says:

Re: Re:

Are you kidding of course they got together and did just that… Prevented the usage of all the players and league likeness…And in case you haven’t been following the NFL problems with disability ..retired players are no longer under the NFL so they can do what they want because they are individuals. EA made deals with the Leagues and their respected players associations….

Tamara says:

Why is having names/data so important? Surely gameplay is the most important aspect of the game. What’s it matter if certain players aren’t in the game. My favourite tennis game, has all of the player names, but no likeness (and Wimbledon is called the UK Open), but so what? It’s the most enjoyable game to play. FIFA until recently, Ronaldo was called No. 9. Did that affect the sales of that game? No.

Anonymous Coward says:

Its the nature of field sporting event games. The games are so complex, once you add in the number of players on the team, that its impossible to control every faucet of the gameplay. You cannot build a truly interactive experience that makes someone think they are in the action. Instead you get sport simulators, AI controlled by the computer, with the overall tactics and strategy controlled by the player. Its not the visceral experience some other sports games are because of that, driving for instance. You can’t simply build a better Football game, because of the nature of football. Its why sports games are a rollover commodity thats re-bought every single year. The largest value in the game is the chance to make believe that you’re the coach of a world class football team, complete with: names, rosters, playbooks, stats, the works. If you can’t get the full experience of controlling your favorite team through a season of play.. its not worthwhile.

Trerro says:

EA - Exploit Everything

It’s not just sports games they’ve damaged. Their strategy in any genre they want to dominate is:
1. Buy out every company they possibly can, using deals if possible, hostile takeovers if not.
2. Destroy the companies, fire everyone, and terminate any series they had running.
3. Release mediocre, buggy garbage into a market that now has little to no competition.

Anyone remember Westwood? Bullfrog? Maxis? Origin? Remember all the great games they used to make? Yep, almost every last series is now dead, and the US gaming industry is a barren wasteland. We used to have a massive pile of good games come out every year, now we’re pretty much entirely dependent on Japan and Korea, the two countries where EA thankfully has little to no power.

Here’s the complete list of annihilated companies:

David (Previously Iron Chef) says:

My cousin used to work for EA. He started as an indie developer, and his products were bought up by Microsoft. What’s interesting is that he was always able to look at a problem and come up with an answer in a day or two. After a while, he was seen as a liability and quite stupidly, they decided to let him go. Like myself, we find the art of “Creating” fun. So there are a lot of other indies out there that make great games like my Cousin, who don’t necessarily care about creating a profit, but creating a fun game.

In a recent thread on another site, I chuckled when I learned an interviewer at a gaming site said: ‘I remember talking to John Tam asking if you’d allow users to include user-generated content, and paraphrasing, he said: No, that users are retards and they will make it look bad.’

So it’s nice to think the Producer of Guitar Hero and EA thinks so highly of it’s users. Additionally, it’s what I believe, again, is a business model problem where there’s an artifical constraint on consumers because Guitar Hero would never allow users to bring their own content because they could mess it up.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:


So gamers can get together a lawsuit against EA about fecking ball player name usage but not about the horrifically anti-customer and industry-destroying DRM EA uses on their PC games called Securom? Which is made by those unrepentant rights-infringer chuckleheads at Sony DADC?

Since April 2007, EA is installing 3rd party software (Sony’s Securom) on your computer with no warning about such prior to nor after purchase, software that can and does alter the function of a computer upon which it is installed without a user’s knowledge, consent, or control, software that cannot be removed by the end user, does not fully uninstall when the associated software is uninstalled, and is designed to communicate unknown information over the internet without a user’s knowledge.

Amongst other tawdry things.

Where’s the lawyers at for that? People with non-functional purchases, crapped out optical drives, and programs disabled by Securom would like to know.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: EA = FU

I have been getting my boycott on, like many others, but I actually know about what they’re up to w/DRM – lots don’t, and won’t since EA’s not particularly forthcoming about how they cripple the software you buy from them, nor how Sony’s DRM can fuxxor your computer.

Hallo, FTC. 🙂

GreatTech says:

Another aspect of the matter

that I haven’t seen mentioned is the harm done to owners of PCs and/or consoles. Specifically how EA deprives owners of a given gaming system of the ability to play some games and worse, for no apparent reason. Examples:

NCAA 09. I can kick Bobby Patrino out of my Beloved Hawgs’ head coach job on the XBox/360, PS2, PS3, Wii and even the PSP. But expressing my moral outrage isn’t possible if I own a Nintendo DS or a PC. So I can go spend a few hundred dollars for a console or just buy….the…..competitor’s……hhhhm.

Madden 09. Here’s a head-scratcher: How is it that Tiburon can develop and port Madden for the PC (at least through 08) but not NCAA? I can’t even think up a good analogy because it’s so odd. Clearly there are no technical hurdles to overcome…so why? And the PC isn’t on the platform list for 09, either. Clearly it was much more cost-effective to recode Madden for the DS and the PSP than it was for the PC. After all, millions of people would obviously rather play Madden on their tiny handheld screen with miniscule speakers (or at best, earbuds) instead of playing it on their 21″, HDMI-capable LCD monitor driven by a $600 video card and 7.1 THX sound system.

NASCAR 09Ask Dale, Jr., about online racing and he’ll tell you all about it. The league he runs and races in 2-3 nights a week. How it helps him prepare for the real thing. How much he enjoys it. And what console do he, Martin Truex, Jr., Denny Hamlin and most of the other under-35 NASCAR drivers use? NONE. They all drive on PCs. No XBoxen, no PlayStations – Personal Computers. So one simply has to be dumb-founded that EA hasn’t released a racing game for the PC since SimRacing in 2005. The best possible advertising (“Hi, I’m Carl Edwards. I just won the Pocono 500 without ever having raced here before. How? I drove hundreds of hours at Pocono Raceway in EA’s NASCAR RaceSim for the PC. And now, YOU CAN TOO!”) But no…EA for some ‘aliens are controlling our minds’ reason thinks nobody would buy a PC racing simulation. Go figure. Oh – and ironically, almost all those drivers race using EA’s NASCAR SimRacing for the PC. You know, the one that EA thinks nobody would buy.

On and on. You can buy Madden for the DS, but not NCAA although PSP owners can get both [no NASCAR for the handhelds at least makes sense]. Wii owners can play Madden, but not NCAA or NASCAR. And, of course, PC owners are left out in the cold. The Black Helicopter crowd is convinced that console makers are “encouraging” EA to keep the PC’s out of the game (heh…) and one has to wonder, based on the product platforms, if there might not be something to that.

Why does it matter? How does the ‘exclusive license’ situation come into play here? Simple, really. If EA won’t develop for a given platform then the player has no real options. He/she is discriminated against. Provably. Go ahead – name another NCAA football sim, let alone one in which I can vent against Patrino, for my PC. Take your time, I’ll wait. After all, it’s not like I have any games to play or anything….

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

Re: EA apologism

Oh, yes, Mass Effect/Bioware fans are so thrilled EA took over and jammed Sony’s crap DRM down their throats:

EA has made me…impossibly cynical! *unhappy face*

Seriously – EA/Sony may be looking at some shiny new lawsuits regarding DRM in the very near future.

Rekrul says:

Argh! Hit the wrong key and it submitted it before I was finished.

I’ve never been a sports fan and I’ve never understood the obsession with having real names in sports games. I do kind of like racing games, but doesn’t matter to me if I’m racing against a computer player with a real name, or a fake name, because… ITS STILL JUST A COMPUTER PLAYER! You’re playing against pixels on the screen and little bits of programming code. Call it whatever name you like, it won’t make it any smarter.

I can’t even get into the generic basball games of the past, like Hardball. It’s just a bunch of identical guys in identical uniforms running around a field. The only sports game I’ve ever liked was Epyx’s Street Sports Baseball for the C64.

Mike says:

My favorite football game every was NFL 2k5. It blew madden out of the water. I still, to this day have never purchased a madden game since. I tried 07 just to check it out, but it was lame. It seems that since EA knows they’re going to sell a gazillion copies of madden anyway, that making it more awesome than the previous year is unnecessary. football games have not really advanced since EA got the exclusive rights. improved graphics, a couple new features, and that’s it. However, you better believe that if another NFL 2K game is ever released…i’ll be standing in line waiting for it.

Vivek Rughani says:

EA Phfffff

Anyone that plays sports games knows that EA do try to relentlessly own the market. A great example is Pro Evolution Soccer from Konami, which faces off against Fifa. This years instalments have seen PES08 take the lead over Fifa in sales. Fifa has all the rights to certain leagues and teams, but that hasn’t stopped PES doing well.

As for Madden I dont think its that bad

TerrorByte says:

First of all, most of you need to get your facts straight before posting such monumental bull in a forum. This legal process will go nowhere; EA has done nothing wrong. The NFL and all it’s subsidiary licenses went out and set a bid for the exclusive licensing of their products. EA could have lost it to Take Two just as easily and they won it. It was fair practice and it’s the NFL’s licenses to do with as they please.

Further, where do you guys see pricing increase? Madden and most other sports games have been around the same price for the past 3-4 years. It was only recently that pricing jumped about $10 more, due to the nextgen platforms and a lot of that isn’t set by the game manufacturer but rather MS and Sony.

For every game you guys sit here and whine about, I can list just as many failures on each and every one of the other game labels. They all have strengths and weaknesses. But do us all a favor and just get your facts straight before you rant about half truths or complete bull you’ve just pulled from that foggy noggin’ of yours. Spreading crap just feeds more ignorant people who are too lazy to do their own research.

Anonymous Coward says:

Who's fault is it really?

I used to work at a a video game company making sports games in competition with EA. I was there when EA signed exclusive with the NFL and afterwards when there was a fight over the exclusive rights to the MLB, NHL, and NBA. In the end the MLB signed a deal with Take 2 that cut EA out but let Sony continue making their game, the NHL signed with both EA and Take 2 (after a battle with their PA), and the NBA wisely declared that competition in their games is good for their brand and refused to sign exclusively with anyone.

I think that this push for exclusive sports license deals isn’t the fault of EA or Take 2, but rather it’s the fault of the short sighted sports organizations playing the game companies off each other for a quick buck. The defendant in this law suit should be the NFL. It’s done terrible harm to the gamers but when I see it I really feel for the game companies. They pay OUTRAGEOUS fees to make a licensed sports game and end up cutting corners to comply with the wide variety of creative restrictions that the leagues impose on the game design. Anyways, as much distaste as I have for EA, I don’t think they’re in the wrong on this one.

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