Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
competition, exclusivity, sports, video games

Companies:
ea



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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  • identicon
    Koala MeatPie, 13 Jun 2008 @ 8:55pm

    Not only has the price raised, but there stopped being innovation and the general quality of the games flatlinned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Jeff Self, 16 Jun 2008 @ 6:59am

      Re:

      This is nothing new. EA's products have always sucked. I was a very happy owner of Earl Weaver Baseball 1.0 and 1.5 back in the 80's. Then 2.0 came out and it was horrible. EA should have been sued for releasing it. It was incredibly buggy. They never provided updates for it and never released another version of it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      angelz, 31 Oct 2009 @ 12:58am

      Re:

      No,i don't agree to you..because in my opinion games are being innovated and doing well in online puzzle games....

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jay Jay James, 13 Jun 2008 @ 8:56pm

    Fantasy Football is D&D for the people who used to beat up the people who Played D&D

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2008 @ 9:01pm

    They may have a case, but only if EA and the NFL somehow conspired to prevent other companies from using the names and stats of NFL players. I think it's pretty unlikely. After all, there are other football games, such as ESPN's All Pro Football, which uses retired players.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Poster, 13 Jun 2008 @ 9:26pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      cuzz3000, 16 Jun 2008 @ 6:31pm

      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....

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sam, 13 Jun 2008 @ 9:34pm

    DIE

    EA did this crap with nascar too! They killed perhaps the best nascar series ever and their replacement games suck!! DIE EA! Hang from trees and DIE! Communism = teh LOOSE!

    I haven't played a nascar racing game in 6 years! DIE!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tamara, 13 Jun 2008 @ 10:33pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Paul, 13 Jun 2008 @ 11:21pm

      Re:

      It's about 'getting into' the game. I personally don't play sports games, but I can see why someone would want the names and likenesses in it. Some people don't just like baseball, they *love* *their* team that plays baseball. They want to *be* that team.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      jaf, 15 Jun 2008 @ 4:25am

      Re: comment

      nobody cares about soccer or tennis, that's wht

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2008 @ 1:48pm

        Re: Re: comment

        American Football - watched by millions in the US
        Football - watched by billions throughout the world

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Lucretious, 15 Jun 2008 @ 4:33am

      Re:

      I'm not into sports games but I can understand why ppl would want it. Myself, if I play a racing game I like knowing it uses real-world liscenced vehicles. Technically it doesn't make a whole lot of difference to the gameplay but it helps with the immersion factor.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      car games, 9 Feb 2010 @ 10:31am

      Re:

      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

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2008 @ 11:40pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Overcast, 14 Jun 2008 @ 12:40am

    EA seems to prefer complexity, half-ass copyright protection schemes, cheap tactics, and strong arming people to making a quality product.

    Used to really like their stuff, now I avoid it like the plague.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Trerro, 14 Jun 2008 @ 2:17am

    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:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_acquisitions_by_Electronic_Arts

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Tony, 14 Jun 2008 @ 11:56am

      Re: EA - Exploit Everything

      Seems to me that there is room for some serious competition, that can't fall prey to the EA strategy you outline:

      "Buy out every company they possibly can, using deals if possible, hostile takeovers if not."

      Can't do a hostile takeover on a privately-held company...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TeamTutorials, 14 Jun 2008 @ 9:57pm

      Re: EA - Exploit Everything

      Maxis...... I really miss SimCity. I don't even know what that was that EA tried to released as SimCity.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David (Previously Iron Chef), 14 Jun 2008 @ 4:05am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    sendeth, 14 Jun 2008 @ 4:42am

    competition

    2k sports. enough said

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Productive Dude in Society, 14 Jun 2008 @ 10:37am

    You punks need to get a life...

    Put down the toys and go outside and do something constructive. Maybe ya'll wouldn't be so fat and lazy then!

    Go help an old codger cut their grass or get a real job and step away from the game console.

    Damn Punks...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Red, 14 Jun 2008 @ 11:17am

      Re: You punks need to get a life...

      Ignorant people like you make me sick...



      Anyway, I was very sad to see Westwood and Maxis get taken over by EA.. There really need to be more diversity in the companies that create games.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, 14 Jun 2008 @ 11:07am

    EA = FU

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Biil, 16 Jun 2008 @ 7:56am

      Re: EA = FU

      You fix that by voting with your wallet, simply stop buying any game they put out. When enough people do that and let them know why they are not buying their games it will stop.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2008 @ 8:24am

        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. :)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GreatTech, 14 Jun 2008 @ 11:56am

    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....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      jhunter, 16 Jun 2008 @ 7:06am

      Re: Another aspect of the matter

      A bunch of guys at work play an old Papyrus (I think?) NASCAR game from like 2003 and play every week. They said they would be totally for buying a new one if one would come out. They didn't like NASCAR simracing 2005 for some reason?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pat, 14 Jun 2008 @ 12:25pm

    The one thing I will forever respect the French for: Vivendi Games, a branch of which being Blizzard. :D

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    KoalaMeatPie, 14 Jun 2008 @ 4:14pm

    OK, lets slow down on the gamers unit for a lawsuit thing...

    Afterall, EA/mythic is releasing Warhammer.

    I want to see that one threw.

    And we still have to thank EA for Mass Effect (in part) and Crysis.

    And Desert Strike on the Sega Genesis.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 14 Jun 2008 @ 5:18pm

    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...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 14 Jun 2008 @ 5:21pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mike, 15 Jun 2008 @ 12:37am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Vivek Rughani, 15 Jun 2008 @ 3:28am

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2008 @ 6:51am

    The more the sheeple keep giving EA their money, the more these things happen. I haven't given EA money since Battlefield 1942. After that, because of the way they handled DICE at the time, they lost my business forever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Iggy, 15 Jun 2008 @ 7:57am

    NASCAR is THE American level!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GearsofPeace, 15 Jun 2008 @ 12:24pm

    It really is a great visual example of how a monopoly can lead to stagnation?
    EA Sports was forced to keep upgrading/improving/innovating to keep ahead of the others...now they have the exclusive licenses, their yearly game improvements are basically roster updates. "Hey look! new QB for the Raiders!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2008 @ 1:28pm

    Still waiting for real life speedball 2

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TerrorByte, 15 Jun 2008 @ 9:59pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2008 @ 6:28am

    Hello, Mr EA employee. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Not Applicable, 16 Jun 2008 @ 8:45am

    Or, just go this direction

    My lineup..

    1. Hose A. Con Seiko
    2. Bear E. Bonds
    2. Dare Ill Strawberry
    3. Mark Mc Wire
    etc, etc, etc

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2008 @ 9:25am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    cheap jordan shoes, 25 Mar 2009 @ 6:56am

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sue, 17 Apr 2009 @ 3:21am

    rookstar

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    infants, 8 Nov 2009 @ 9:18pm

    Fantasy Football is D&D for the people who used to beat up the people who Played

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mala, 27 Mar 2010 @ 3:47pm

    Yap No,i don't agree to you..because in my opinion games are being innovated and doing well in online games

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dirt bike games, 13 May 2010 @ 11:40pm

    cool

    i always love sports games.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stephen P. Cooper, 20 Sep 2012 @ 5:04am

    They still play it.

    With all the hate to EA games, still others play it thats ironic isn't it.

    FIFA Tutorial

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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