EA, NFL Extend Maddenopoly

February 13, 2008 -

Electronic Arts announced yesterday that it had tacked an additional three years onto its exclusive license with NFL and NFL Players Association.

In the wake of the deal, brokered by EA exec Peter Moore, no competing product will be able to use NFL team names or logos or player likenesses until at least 2012.

And this is good news?

Here at GamePolitics I've bashed the EA/NFL deal repeatedly in the past and will have more to say about this one going forward. In the meantime, it's important to remember that when competition goes away the consumer - in this case, the gamer - always loses. Always...

In the meantime, we had a laugh at Moore's assertion to GameDaily that the NFL exclusive is actually a good thing for gamers because it will allow EA to invest in making better games:

BIZ: What would you say to the naysayers out there who believe one choice for an NFL game is not the best thing for gamers?

 

Moore: This deal allows us to invest. The key is to make sure we're in a position to invest aggressively in making the most innovative game... As we move forward, it doesn't stop anyone from doing another football game as 2K proved this past season (with All Pro Football). At the same time, obviously, the ability for us to use the teams, the players, the stadiums and all of the official marks is important.


GP: Spoken like a true pitchman, Peter. By that brand of logic, all monopoly positions would be good for consumers because they generate inflated profits for their respective corporations. But I seem to recall that Madden cost $29.99 when 2K Sports had a competing game and $49.99 as soon as 2K's NFL license went away.

So, count me among the naysayers. And, yes, I realize that the NFL and the NFLPA are as much to blame as EA.


Comments

Re: EA, NFL Extend Maddenopoly

 

 

 What bothers me is the idea that EA figures with this deal people will buy games blindly and don't care about innovation or gameplay or product etc..

It's like they will put out madden 2008 or 2009 game and if it's a below average game,they would like what we care-we have no insentive next year to improve ,it sold alot..people bought it,,who cares about the innovation or vastly improving the game.

Re: EA, NFL Extend Maddenopoly

 

 

 Anti-trust laws are their for one reason to promote competition and in turn they bring innovation.Consumers benefit from this,it brings in that always looking over my shoulder to see what my nearest competetion is doing.How many times does a #2 company come out with something new in design,a new price,or a new package deal..and all of the sudden 1 week later..the #1 company follows right along suit to counter them.

 I think in this day and age,this deal is starting to hurt more than help them..the PR EA has gotten from this seems to be quite strong and growing.I think ij this day and age,or internet and blogs and so much information passed so fast that EA has lost alot more consumers in past few years than they have gained..Word of mouth is powerful thing in the internet age,ESPN 2k5 now is almost expected as one of the best football games ever,I read way more people saying ESPN2k5 was better than Madden.

The one way to deal with this exclusive deal is not to buy Madden football,I haven;t since 2005,I bought it every up till 2005-that will be the last. ..anyone who dislikes this deal and says it's unfair don;t buy madden,thats your best revenge.

 

 

Re: EA, NFL Extend Maddenopoly

This isn't surprising at all. Why would the NFL play the field at all? EA is willing to pay piles of money to have the monopoly, and people flock to the Madden title in droves every year for nothing more than an updated roster.

What reason would the NFL have to allow others to use the license? The fans? They sure as shit don't give a damn about the fans. The NFL has proved that many times over, especially this past season with moving the majority of the games off of network TV. And have you ever actually listened to the their copyright warning? I still don't see how writing about the game is licensable.

The NFL is more to blame than EA is. Peter Moore wasn't working for EA when the deal was originally signed. But he's still a massive tool, his work at Sega and Microsoft are more than enough to prove that.

Yeah this is extremely bothersome. Sega's DC NFL games were very competent competitors to shoddy Madden games, and the 2K series that spawned from it was solid. NFL 2k5 is hands down still the best NFL game I have played, period.

Unfortunately EA swallowed up ESPN and the NFL.

I have Madden 08, it is an ok, but not great game. Madden's next gen games are worse in terms of functionality as compared to the older titles. I can only surmise this is because of a total lack of competition.

Aren't I lucky that we don't play American Football in Britain..

@Steve

Blades of Steel. Greatest Hockey Game EVAR!

"Something occurs to me. Lot of people throwing around the word monopoly in regards to EA’s access to the NFL. Isn’t the NFL, effectively, a monopoly?" -- Jadedcritic

Actually, you are correct. Not only was the league found to be a monopoly in the USFL's '85/'86 lawsuit, but it is also the beneficiary of an antitrust exemption that allows the league to combine its various teams' broadcast rights into those big-dollar packages sold to CBS/Fox/NBC/ESPN. Sen. Specter, in his recent pre-Super Bowl tirade about Spygate, threatened to have Congress take another look at that exemption.

Count me as one of the Nay syares as well. The NFL thing was the biggest reason why I chose to never buy an EA game again.

The fact that they had the balls to play dirty when the competition created a superior product.

This never should have been allowed to happen. The FTC should have stepped in at one point. But who has the resourses to take on EA?

It would be nice if the fans of football games would take an interest in these dealings, but I guess they are too willing to be screwed over.

"Invest in making better games."

Bullshit. EA have been rich as kings for about a decade now, and the last good game they produced was FIFA 94 for the Sega Mega Drive. EA has a proven track record of making the world's shittiest games, and the fact they are still rich and still making shitty games means that there is no reinvestment, they are just lining their fat exec's pockets with even more cash while their developers are paid peanuts, work in horrible conditions with no rights and given ridiculous deadlines meaning shitty games and broken, tired developers. EA is a travesty.

Those who have been around a while know that I have kept from ostracizing this deal, and even supported it in some circumstances, but this deal actually surprised me. I had assumed that the NFL would 'play the field' a bit more after that last match-up specifically because of the backlash against EA (and to a lesser extent, the NFL themselves). Looks like I was wrong and EA must be making it a pretty sweet deal.

However, I hope that other game company's reactions are a bit more...supple...this time around. There were a whole lot of promising new takes on the genre when the original deal was finalized, yet we ended up with a whole lot of nuthin'. Lets remember to save some criticism for the other companies, too.

Innovation and Madden titles, hmm hmm. Nope can't see it.

Considering that they willingly shovel over their cash year after year for marginal upgrades, I would say that they aren't the sharpest tacks in the box.

Funny thing is, when VC was yet to release their all pro series EA all of a sudden came out with a markedly improved version of Madden. Amazing how even perceived competition can get people off their ass.

Of course now that All Pro went down in flames I expect the next Madden to be little different from its predecessor.

I do not think that greatly of EA after they did not release Thrill Kill after me and several other fans of fun brutal games was looking forward to Thrill Kill. They just had to cancel the game a few days before release to have a different image of their company rather than think about the people excited to get the game. Now alot of people that was excited about Thrill Kill do not have a good image of the company anymore.

Well to be fair, any company would do somersaults if they managed an exclusivity deal with the NFL. If Activision or Ubisoft were offered the same deal, they would, without a doubt jump, at it.

I'm not supporting the move by any means, but when you answer first and foremost to the shareholders, you have to consider the moves that may be unpopular but will net a greater profit. Of course this is the type of mentality that has to change in the business world, but don't look for it too soon.

I think more shame should be placed for the NFL allowing its lawyers to broker this deal, as well as the whole suing churches with screens larger that 55". The NFL as a business entity speaks volumes for the 'lawyers run the show' mentality.

The Madden franchise has become one of the most uninspiring, uninnovative game franchises on the market. People buy it out of habit and because it's now the only football game on the market. I've not touched it in years because, even after all this time, the gameplay remains uninspiring and unrealistic. They work to add more signature tackles and end zone dances, update the rosters, and change the year and cover art to get it to market while ignoring core game flaws that have been present for years. If this is "good for gamers," then I'm the Pope.

I'll also point out that Peter Moore said the EXACT SAME THING when the original deal was signed. Since then, the franchise has flatlined. Spare us the bullshit, Peter.

(NOTE: I didn't buy the All Pro Football game either...lack of a franchise mode killed it for me.)

NFL 2K5 won my heart. EA took that away from me. Luckily APF2K8 is still an amazing game, regardless of the lack of NFL license.

It only sucks that I can't play as my Bears, but its a worthy sacrifice to play a superior football game. At least in my eyes.

I just hope EA doesn't pick up that Back Breaker technology. Have you guys seen that? It could really change football games as we know it.

i have hated EA ever since they published a watered down version of NBA live 08 for the Wii. EA needs to realize that complete dominance doesn't equal better game.

EA sold their last product to me when I bought the most recent Sims Expansion and had nothing but trouble with it.

This just further presses that home. EA is far too 'corporate' for me anymore. But yeah - names or not, a good football game will shine and a crappy one will fail.

That's ok - I'd rather not play a team in the NFL anyway. I wouldn't want to hassle with all that pay, team members landing themselves in jail, and telling my fans they can't let friends watch the game on their TV, because it's copyright infringement.

Innovation is something hardly ever seen in a sports game, especially not in an EA game. I bet if EA has their way you won't be able to go to Gamestop without seeing the EA logo plastered on all the game cases.

I hadn't played a good football game since Blitz 2000, well there was NFL Street...but I will admit that this doesn't seem like a good idea for EA or NFL, to hog all the licenses for themselves...

I can't say i don't buy EA games. Last one I got was Skate (and that was amazing since the Tony Hawk series went downhill after THUG). EA can produce some quality games, but not as often as they do the crappier ones. Madden is among the crappier ones...

EA should seriously run their business as an online service. Download the updated rosters, game modes, and whatever else EA does to the game (not much I'm sure). It would seriously save them the money as well as rake in a lot more.

I think if they're allowed to hold an exclusive contract on the NFL, they should be forced to pick one up for the CFL as well. I'm serious, I want a game where I can take Kerry Joseph and the Riders to the Grey Cup. ('Course, I want a team back here in Ottawa too, but one miracle at a time.)
---
Fangamer

Peter Moore's job is to make money for the EA investors. He's done his job very well by inking this deal. Don't blame a man for doing his job. Same goes for the NFL and NFL PA. They are doing what they feel is good for their interests.

I don't buy the "No competition" thing. Video games aren't food, or fuel, or some other commodity that is vital to life (I know some hardcore NFL fans may argue that point). There's no monopoly here. If you don't like paying $49.99 for Madden, don't. Simple as that. Buy something else instead. As soon as people don't buy the game, guess what...EA drops the price, the NFL and NFL PA realize that it wasn't as sweet a deal as they thought, and the licenses go out again. Ultimately it's the fans who bear the responsibility here, as they're the ones demanding digital representations of their heroes. The gameplay would be no different if the players were fictional.

It won't happen that way I know, because for many folks $49.99 isn't a lot of money to pay for a game that they like with their gridiron gods on full display. People will pay it and EA will keep their license, because people are willing to pay, not forced to pay. There are other entertainment options available. That's not a monopoly, it's market forces. I usually agree with Dennis on things, but I think that this one is going a bit overboard.

Alrighty, flame on!

Yes, make etter games, right. The bug-riddled-on-every-release of Madden 08 is the prime example of this monopoly helping them make better games.

Oh lookie! there's a pig flying outside my house in -20C weather too.

@LAG

Just because I have the choice to not buy something does not make it acceptable for the product to be total crap. There used to be a viable alternative with the 2K series, but since EA bought the NFL and ESPN rights it is gone. Sure, I can vote with my wallet and not buy, but decreased Madden sales have done nothing to deter EA from this strategy.

Your perspective is that EA is doing good by increasing its profit margins at the cost of competition and a decent game. My perspective is that they are monopolizing the market (they own the NCAA Football license too) which directly and negatively impacts the gamer.

I am honestly surprised that more people aren't more upset.

I've never really been a big fan of the Madden games, but my roommate buys the newest version every year, and I'll sit and watch him play. The year they took the Madden commentary out of the game was the year that it started to suck. Watching the gameplay also made me realize that, along with some of the other posters, the functionality is really going downhill, since EA can do what they want.

On the other hand, where the hell is there MVP Baseball? Wasn't one of the other major companies the only that had an official MLB license? EA had to put out college baseball games, and they were still a thousand times better than any other game. Why am I not playing that and having to get stuck with games like Power Pro?

@Evan

I never made any statement that alludes that EA's exclusive license was good for anyone other than EA and the NFL. I cannot disagree with the position that ultimately this will lead to a sub-standard game. I can't even say that this will be good for gaming in general (but neither can I say the opposite).

What I am saying is that this is not a monopoly situation. There are alternatives to Madden, if your life isn't ruled by NFL football. Even if it is, you don't have to play Madden...it's not a necessity of life. You _can_ vote with your wallet and not buy the game. The choice is yours. If people don't buy, EA and the NFL will rethink their deals. So far, enough people continue to buy the game that they haven't reached the point of worry.

Please don't misrepresent my perspective. Your assertion that my "...perspective is that EA is doing good by increasing its profit margins at the cost of competition and a decent game" is completely unsupported. I have no love for Peter Moore, EA, or any other entity involved here, and I have not made any statements that should lead you to believe that. However, neither can I hate them for making what appears to be a sound business decision. I think that your characterization of the NFL/NCAA football video game segment as a "market" is putting a bit of a stretch on the meaning of the term. The video game market is much larger...even if you define the sports video game segment as a market, there are alternatives to Madden.

I'm sorry that the situation detracts from your gaming enjoyment. I have no doubt that many people are very upset by this, and I can see why. However, characterizing this as a monopoly situation only hurts the credibility of people whose opinions and integrity I generally highly respect. In the end, I'm convinced that taking that position will hurt the cause.

I'm not a big fan of EA either with what the ea_spouse story and the monopolistic contracts they're so fond of.

However, to go from there to what "las, attorney" says about EA games is...hmm...how should I put this...stupid.

Some of their sports games might've lacked a little oomph lately, but certainly not all of them. NHL 08 was by far a better product than the lackluster NHL 2K8. Funny how competition does bring innovation.

Burnout Paradise that came out about a month ago is a FANTASTIC game. It's innovative, wonderful to play, looks great, sounds great and just a whole lot of fun. And it's like the 10th iteration of that franchise.

So EA can certainly produce great games when they want to. It's just that their Madden (and most sports franchises) team hasn't seemed to want that for a long time.

Another thing that gets me, with no competition it's almost assured that Madden's quality will drop as EA has no motivation to make the game stand out any more as it's the only game in town.

Mixed thoughts. Like many I have a vague seething sense of contempt for EA, but I can't blame them. Not really. I still remember Peter's presentation from the last E3. He bragged allot about how x360's strategy for that year was around his triple-play. Halo3, Madden, GTA. Of course, since then GTA4 still isn't out, but he wasn't wrong about Madden. It makes $$$$$$$$$.

Actually the one thing that gave me the most pause about this article and the comments is what Overcast said.

"That’s ok - I’d rather not play a team in the NFL anyway. I wouldn’t want to hassle with all that pay, team members landing themselves in jail, and telling my fans they can’t let friends watch the game on their TV, because it’s copyright infringement."

....say what??....

can't let friends what the game on their TV, because it's copyright infringement....
...what???
(I can't even frame an intelligent response to that without swearing. )

"This never should have been allowed to happen. The FTC should have stepped in at one point."

Unfortunately for gamers, exclusivity licenses between professional sports leagues tend to be the rule rather than the exception. What exactly could the FTC have said? "You can't have just one video game deal, but, oh yeah, the Official Soft Drink/Pizza/Car Insurance/etc. deals can stay"? If the FTC didn't have a problem with Pepsi/Pizza Hut/State Farm/etc. getting their own exclusive deals with the league, how could they raise an objection to EA doing the same?

I don't get each Madden game year after year, but I like my copy of Madden NFL 2005 : /

Yeah, 3 more years until innovation in football games can start! YES! GO EA!

...sarcasm.

There's been quite a bit of "WTF EA?" going around lately. I still can't believe that EA, a major publisher and player in the game biz (regardless if you hate 'em, you've gotta give them credit) will be releasing games based on Hasbro licenses. I mean, Littlest Pet Shop? NERF? Shovelware at beast. I'd love to see Peter Moore's spin on those.

WTF EA?

Why do people even bother buying a new Madden game, just grab five bucks and browse the bargain bins.

LAG (Law Abiding Gamer),

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

Seems a cut and dry monopoly to me.

"persistent situation where there is only one provider of a product or service in a particular market" - Check.

"Monopolies are characterized by a lack of economic competition for the good or service that they provide" - Check.

"and a lack of viable substitute goods" - Check.

If you have a different definition of monopoly, I am all ears.

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

@jadecritic

Overcast is correct. The NFL started sending letters to churches because the Super Bowl is not allowed,*legally*, to be shown on TVs over 55" in public. Many church groups had to cancel their parish Super Bowl parties out of fear of being sued. Of course, sports bars are exempt from this.

Tragic, but true:(

http://hdtv.engadget.com/2007/02/01/nfl-shuts-down-churchs-super-bowl-ba...

Seems a cut and dry monopoly to me.

“persistent situation where there is only one provider of a product or service in a particular market” - Check.

2KGames invalidates this.

“Monopolies are characterized by a lack of economic competition for the good or service that they provide” - Check.

2KGames makes a profit on their series of Football games

“and a lack of viable substitute goods” - Check.

2K Games All-Pro Football 2008: rated '75' on Metacritic
Madden 08: rated '85' on Metacritic

Both games completely viable football games in the market.

EA does not have a monopoly, they have a licensing deal.

@~the1jeffy

No argument with the definitions that you're quoting (although using Wikipedia as an "official" source of definitions is...well...naive?). I have a different definition of some of the terms in your quotes than you do.

I don't see that a single video game, or even a family of video games (all NFL games), comprise(s) a market. - Uncheck #1

I feel that there is plenty of economic competition for Madden, in the form of every other video game available or, if you prefer, every other sports video game available. - Uncheck #2

I feel that there are plenty of viable substitute goods, such as books, other video games, etc. (see above). - Uncheck #3

Just my opinions of course. Take 'em as you will. I'll restate, I'm not being an apologist for anything that the parties named in the article have done. I think that Moore has mischaracterized the deal, and in the end it will only benefit EA's, the NFL's, and the NFL PA's bottom lines. However, I disagree with throwing around terms as serious as monopoly in cases such as this. Let's reserve them for cases where the terms actually apply, and maintain this site's reputation as following the "high road".

I believe the "monopoly" term is mainly being used along the lines that the EA is monopolizing the NFL license. That license, and the player names/team names/etc. are what typically attracts people to buy the game opposed to other football games where those names are not able to be used. EA played pretty dirty to do that, and set themselves up as being the only producer with the license to use the names.

Monopoly does not apply to this. That's like saying Pepsi has a monopoly on "Sprite". What EA has, and I understand why it is upsetting, is an exclusive license. VERY different from a monopoly. There is at least one other completely viable football game on the market, but many football fans want the NFL brand on the game they play. That is a choice the consumer makes, not forced upon them.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

!@#$%$%, I was hoping it'd run out and they wouldn't notice.

All I can say is that the last NFL 2K was better than Madden. Unsurprisingly, it's also the last time I bought a football game. They also have an edge in hockey, so I'll guess we'll see hockey go strictly EA too.

All this means is that I will not own a football video game for at least 3 more years.

I'm not a college football fan, other than I want to see the Gophers win at everything. So I don't think I'll find myself buying NCAA.

I find it hard to get into any sports game that doesn't have the actual players in it. Except for Super Baseball 2020. I remember loving that game. A foul tip home run was too cool. Plus you could be a total jerk and just bean the guys with the upgraded armor.

Anyone knows the real reason EA had that deal. They were getting their asses kicked year after year by 2K, so they decided to eliminate the competition.

Like I said, if you have an alternate definition of monopoly, please provide it. Your assertion of naivety on my part is obtuse, I usually judge each wiki page on it's own terms and sources, and use it as a convenient starting point for discourse.

The NFL branding on a football video game is obviously a major selling impetus, as the arguably technically superior 2kGames fooball video game franchise performed abyssmally in sales numbers. So how is this a viable alternative?

There is no economic competition for an NFL game. Period. A consumer that wants an NFL game MUST purchase Madden. Period.

And when deciding to use the term "Monopoly" economists typically use two criteria: 1) Lack of viable alternative 2) Control of price

Obviously, the assertion that the availability of other football, or sports games constitute viable alternatives is arguable. Of course, this really boils down to liscencing or quality semantics, and really isn't worth my time.

Just look at what the prices were before the deal and then after. You can't argue against that - they are hard numbers. It's a monopoly. The idea that monopoly is a holy thing only reserved for "important," and "High Road," subjects both diminishes video games and, more importantly, allows 2 mega-corporations to continue fleecing their consumers (the majority of whom honestly don't know about this deal). If you don't read gamertrade press, you don't know about the Maddenopoly (Nice one, GP!).

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

Sure, the NFL licenses a lot of things exclusively. That doesn't make this right.

Maybe I should explain this to those of you who aren't sports gamers.

We watch the NFL. We follow the stories. We buy the merchandise. Of COURSE we want an NFL branded game. In 2003, you had a choice of FIVE different NFL branded video games. Today, it's just one. What is so different about today that we can only have one NFL game as opposed to a wide variety?

Yes, APF 2K8 is a nice alternative, but it's a celebration of football past. It's not "I'm gonna DESTROY the Giants, unlike SOME real-life Patriots". As much as I like controlling Joe Montana, during the NFL season, I want to control Tom Brady, and play against other actual NFL teams.

Football games didn't always have licenses. Games also didn't have full 3D capability and audio commentary and the players faces, but that's the times.

Yes, we can vote with our wallets, but that doesn't mean we have to be HAPPY about it.

I can only update the ESPN NFL 2K5 roster so many times.

"The NFL branding on a football video game is obviously a major selling impetus, as the arguably technically superior 2kGames fooball video game franchise performed abyssmally in sales numbers. So how is this a viable alternative?"

Because it is a complete football game and is sold in the same stores as Madden. If it is a reasonable alternative and is equally available it is a viable alternative.

This alone negates the two criteria you mention. And the availability of other football games is not arguable. There are, in fact, other complete football video games available for any fan of football games.

I understand that people are upset, me included, at the length of time EA has the licensing rights for the NFL and its properties. But calling this a monopoly is a stretch at best. Let's just call it what it is: an unfortunate licensing deal for fans of the NFL brand and the associated teams.

@WarOtter

It was cool, but I still have fonder memories of Ice Hockey. The fights in that game were priceless.

But coming from Northern MN, I'm a huge fan of the NHL games. I had many of the older players as coaches growing up, and played with and went to school with a lot of current and upcoming NHL players. So for me, NHL keeps getting better, because I can actually put my friends on teams without creating them custom.

Most are still found in the minors, but the newer games include full minor league rosters, so that is pretty awesome.
 
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