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

I really wish there was some kind of competition in terms of Madden games. I mean it is so abusive to the consumers of these games. $50-60 a year just to basically own the same game with new characters and updated stats, something that can now be done through a download. Honestly, its a rip off. I'm not saying no one should play Madden or it is a terrible game but I am saying is that it seriously lacks any kind of innovation or even change of direction. Slightly prettier graphics and new characters.... now give me your money... trust me its good that we don't have competition to worry about...

Competition makes better products. If you don't have another company breathing down your neck why would you have any motivation to make a better product? You already know people are going to purchase it, why even bother putting effort into it. I mean it is a bad business decision to put extra effort into Madden because it would cost more money and would probably result in loss of profit but at the same time it is a poor art/design decision because its almost the same exact thing as the last version.

The same rule can apply to console manufacturing. Even politics can relate to this. This is why I don't want Sony to die because of their poor choices with the design and marketing of the PS3. If it was just Microsoft and Nintendo the quality of consoles would likely begin to drop after a generation. I actually wish someone else would step up and add a fourth entity into the mix. And in terms of politics I am completely fed up with this Republican/Democrat domination to the point where I almost want to not vote for either just because it plays towards a system that is black and white with no gray area. Not everything can follow binary logic.

While this is good for EA it absolutely terrible for gamers. It really pisses me off. Will it change? Not likely, not until people stop buying Madden. I don't even think people really like Madden as much as they think. What they like is NFL football and thats the only choice they have in terms of playing an NFL football game.

I'm going to go play some Mutant League Football.....

// Sorry for the rant, everyones probably heard someone say the same thing so its becoming about as stagnant as Madden has become.

Pixelantes Anonymous Says: blah blah blah las, attorney is stupid, blah blah blah

Ok, EA may have produced a game that wasn't a complete turd once in a while, but that doesn't absolve them from over a decade of producing some of the worst games in the world. Most of their games are just pieces of shit that have a license slapped on them (Harry Potter, NFL, LOTR etc.) and the ones that aren't are terrible. Hell, I'll be the first to admit that EA do have the potential to produce good games (SSX Tricky was one of the best games I've ever played, although 3 and On Tour weren't as good, therefore proving the pattern that EA establish a fanbase then screw them over).

However, you cannot just flat out deny that EA make bad games. Most games reviewers begin their reviews of EA Games by going 'oh great, another EA licensed piece of shit'. EA have had enough money for years to invest and make good games, but instead of using that money and churning out one decent game, they churn out ten shit games and perhaps one not-so-shit game. Their business model is horrible for both their employees and consumers, and only serve to make their highest-paid execs richer.

When they say 'invest in making great games' what they mean is 'buy out good developers like Maxis, and then waste their talents by churning out condescending pieces of shit like the Urbz, otherwise known as 'What EA thinks Sims for Black People would look like'. Then as if they couldn't shit on gamers more, they decide to get even richer by putting ads in games such as Battlefield 2142.

Needless to say, giving the NFL license to one game is completely uncompetitive and is unfair on both gamers and fans. Now EA has no rivals, it no longer needs to make the games any better, they can just update the roster, slap on '08 and be happy with it. It's disgusting.

I like the Madden NFL series and you can customize a lot in those games. That being said, this is not good for the NFL and for gamers. There are gamers that do not like the Madden series or do not like EA altogether. They will vote with their money and not buy the game.

I will have to agree with the1Jeffy on this. This is a monopoly.

Not a monopoly of entertainment.

Not a monopoly of games.

Not a monopoly of sports games.

Not a monopoly of football games.

But a monopoly on NFL games.

Fans of football in general have plenty of choices. But fans of the NFL have no choice.

It is a very narrow monopoly but a monopoly none the less.

@EZK

Agreed. Just like Honda has a monopoly on Accords, not on 4 door sedans.

I can't say EA is a bad company, well because they aren't. They have pros and cons but I can't say they are absolutely terrible.

I can use one statement to support my theory. Maxis is owned by EA. Enough said. Just wait for Spore, hopefully it will be as amazing as we all think.

Chris-

That isn't the same because the NFL is not a product of EA. EA is kind of borrowing the image of the NFL(buying it) to make a game about it. It is all about control over IP in the game development realm.

I think I am going to step back on my previous points.

I will continue to say that what they did to 2K was a dirty tactic, but I guess it is business.

No one is complaining that EA has the monopoly on Harry Potter games. Yet they do.

The NFL as a business has the rights to choose who to license their brand too. The yhave that right. Whether they should excersize that right with out the approval of the members of their organizations, is another story.

So as the lisence holder they can do that.

Also EA as one of the biggest game publishers, has the right to use their mountains of cash to buy what ever exclusive license they want.

It is an interesting situtation, a monopoly of sorts, but a legal one under copyright laws.

I don't understand why the NFL would continue to deal with EA, given their track record of shitty games. Look at WWF/WWE. When they sold the license to Acclaim, they churned out War Zone and Attitude, both of which were turds, so WWF/WWE sold the license to THQ, who have given us the decent Smackdown games.

How exactly does the NFL benefit from an exclusivity deal? Surely the more licensed football games there are, the more royalties they get? By only throwing their lot in with one company, they've minimizing potential revenue and decreasing the size of their fan-base.

@TT

Since the NFL does not make games themselves, consider EA their game dev arm.

No anti monopoly lawsuit?

----
Papa Midnight

I’m absolutely tiered of people bashing EA every time they do something, even EA fully publishing Mass Effect for the PC people think is a bad thing going like “OMG EA, TEH ARE GUNNA RUIN IT!” EA is not that bad anymore as a publisher, they figured out that if we become less conservative people will like us again. Letting developers delay games if they need to and helping other developers that are usually never affiliated with EA itself. The Orange Box was helped by EA, they also help bring out Rock Band. And if you guys are saying that they don’t let people delay games, what about Spore? That thing is being published by EA and there still letting it be allowed to be delayed. People are also saying they don’t take risks, what about Skate? That was one hell of a risk they took going up against Tony Hawk coming with a history of 8 other games and look. It’s outselling Tony Hawk.

las, attorney the games they put out are rarely licensed games if they aren’t sports games and if you’re going to bash them on that, why don’t you go bash THQ for putting out a bazillion Ratatoie games, Sponge Bob, and broken wrestling games, and for every 20 of those only one Company of Heroes. Even their Warhammer games are not original IP’s.
Go look at EA’s list of games and tell me how many of them are not licensed games and original IP’s compared to all of the licensed (not including sports) games.

People saying EA is evil because they buy companies, it’s like what Jeff Gretsmann said, their not going to Bioware and Pandemics offices and drowning a bunch of puppies they have, in fact this is a good thing because it gives both those companies the funding needed to make better RPG’s or interesting shooters.

Bottom line EA is not that bad of a company any more.

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? Somebody wants to watch football, is there some other option short of going to their kid's high school games? I guess what I'm saying is that if we think that EA's license agreement with the NFL constitues a monopoly, I think we should also consider that the NFL is basically the same.

In regards to that tangent about the NFL closing down church superbowl parties. I'm not too surprised. I heard an urban legend and frankly, I don't even remember where. Copyright law professor threw up NFL footage on you-tube. Theory was she was trying to make a point. Of course NFL serves a cease and desist, you tube yanks it, and notifies her. She successfully *fights the accusation*. If I remember the law right, if she fights it the other party has 30 days to respond, and and the NFL didn't. Ergo, the clip went back up. The funny part is, under the law, the next logical step would be to take it to court. They didn't. They hit you-tube with another cease and desist. Effectively making the teacher's point for her. (that the precise nature of the law isn't well understood)

I don't know if any of that's true, but it sounds at least plausible to me. Let's face it, the NFL bludgeoning people with a copyright law they don't understand isn't that hard to believe.

Ias -- the NFL benefits because EA is paying far more for the exclusive deal than the NFL was making on having multiple deals. Why do you think EA keeps trying to nickel and dime the Madden fans with downloadable content (extra stadiums, throwback uniforms, etc.) that used to be included as part of the game? Why do you think EA is turning out shitty NFL games like "NFL Tour?" Because they're trying to make their money back!

the NFL is currently sucking EA dongle

Insanejedi:

EA mistreats its employees. Fact. Check it out in Google. Several employees have set up anonymous blogs documenting the abuses they faced at EA, and are too scared to use their real names as if EA found out they were telling the truth about them, there'd be hell to pay. Is that the kind of atmosphere you'd want to live in? One of fear? EA 'claim' they have since improved working conditions (only after the threat of a class-action lawsuit) but the fact they edited their own Wikipedia page to make it seem there is nothing but sunshine and happiness flying out of their offices makes it seem somewhat suspect.

Don't make me laugh by saying hardly any of their games are licensed. I had a quick survey through their catalogue and there was at least one game for everyone letter of the alphabet that was just a turd with a license slapped on it, usually several titles for the most common letters. Yes, THQ's record isn't exactly much better, I was just using it as an example of a brand taking their IP away from a company that was tarnishing it and giving it to one that will improve it, which is what the NFL should do.

EA aren't going to fuck with Will Wright; he is possibly their greatest asset and any other games publisher would pay out of the nose for him. As soon as they started cramping his style, he'd walk and EA knows it, hence why they're letting him fuck around with Spore.

As for helping out on Rock Band and Orange Box, I suppose we should be giving them medals for their services to gaming. Except they weren't be philanthropic, they were doing it to get rich. As for Skate, I'd say that it was less of taking a risk, more of seizing an opportunity. Ever since THPS3, the games have gone seriously downhill. Gamers are bored of the same engine being churned out over and over again. Skate offered something fresh and was surprisingly good. Add that to EA's advertising power and you have a new hit game. If I was 13 and I still like skating games, I probably would have chosen Skate over the latest Tony Hawk's game, because if you play 3, the rest add nothing (except maybe stupid minigames and Grand Theft Auto-esque features that are useless and broken).

Perhaps EA isn't as shitty as it used to be, but until it stops making uncompetitive deals like this and actually puts the gamers and developers before their fat-cat execs, then I'm still not buying any of their games.

Earlier, I was watching this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hP7iuoyYJk and they mention two problems that happened: EA control over NFL games ands and Playmakers which the NFL didn't like and force it's cancellation (or so they say)

Why don't we create alternatives? Yeah yeah yeah, so you can't have your favorite team/player because they're owned by the NFL. Big deal, we'll be getting better games and at the same time maybe even making a point to EA: if we don't like your games, then we will go elsewhere. Of course then there are the people who will buy it anyway...

Dog Welder Says:

I had guessed that was the reason on paper, but it still doesn't make any sense. The NFL fanbase will shrink as a direct result of such a move, meaning less merch being sold, and less merch = less money. Maybe the licensing deal was more lucrative, but surely the NFL would have earned more money if they took a small percentage for the profits made from every NFL branded game sold instead of these licensing deals.

Besides, the NFL doesn't have to be a heartless corporation and instead take one for the team and put the fans before their own paychecks.

@ jadedcritic

The NFL does not have a monopoly on football at all. There's plenty of college football being shown on TV as well. The NFL is merely the only fully professional football organization, but their product (i.e. broadcasts of football games) is produced by plenty of other sources.

EA's exclusivity deal IS a monopoly, however. It's a limited one, but it's a monopoly in the same sense that having a patent on a particular product gives you a monopoly for the production and sales of that product.

On a pedantic note - as EA have an exclusive purchase deal they could be characterized as a 'monopsony' with regard to the NFL license (if that was seen as being a market in its own right)
But its characterization as a monopoly depends on a separate demand side market definition which will necessarily be wider than any IP license involved.

It's not going to fit the legal definition of a monopoly, I've been told by people who know these things.

But I look at these things from the gamer/consumer view and the gamer/consumer gets the shaft whenever competition is removed.

Moreover, I found Moore's comment about "naysayers" completely patronizing in a "run along now, we here at corporate know what's best for you" sort of way.

@Xantar

Touche. I completely forgot about college ball. Point taken.

@Ias, Attorney

"How exactly does the NFL benefit from an exclusivity deal?"

well theres a saying we like to use around here to describe why the NFL would allow this

"It's hard to say no when they drive a dump truck full of money up the driveway"

@las

your talking about a group of people.
a single person wouldn't have done this.

a group of people only interested in themselves and their money now, not looking at the bigger picture are the ones that made this deal

This may be the wrong thread for me to post in but I have to take my jab as EA for all the terrible things it has done to players over years and I'm not talking about anything related to sports titles at all.

I guess all the new found "love" over the ME travesty is gone now. It is sad really, they could have used it to really change their image amongst older gamers. Oh well I guess you cant teach an old dog new tricks.

Anyway luckily for me, I passionately hate sports and stories like this give me a pleasant chuckle. For what it is worth, I do have empathy for all you fans however.

Good for EA and the NFL.

The repeated assertations that this is somehow a "monopoly" show a complete lack of understanding of the situation. It's the NFL's license to do with as they choose and if both EA and the NFL are happy with the arrangement, good for them. No one else has to like it.

The idea that a license (Be it NFL, Star Wars, Star Trek etc...) needs competing creaters of products or the consumer is somehow being shortchanged makes no sense at all. The NFL is not a public service organization, they're in it for the money and the if this makes the most business sense they should do it.

Quite simply there is NO harm to the consumers here. You're not entitled to a selection of NFL branded videogames and if you don't like the ones produced, don't buy 'em. It's capitalism.

I bet when all of the rats have left the sinking ship that the White House is(argue in their favor, then your credibility is dead), hopefully Congress will start doing something about this.

@ Tye the Czar

i really don't know what you'd expect congress to do in this mater, seeing as it's all completely legal, it sucks for consumers yes, but it's not illegal

the NFL holds the rights to the team names, and the players association holds the rights to the players likenesses, they can sell those licensing right to whom ever they choose, and can fully enter an agreement to not license them to anyone else

just as Touchstone Pictures licensed the rights to make the Lord of the Rings movies, so nobody else could make any Lord of the Rings movies until that licensing deal runs out, it's not a monopoly, it's simple bussiness

The 'NFL' is an Intellectual Property just like StarWars, Harry Potter, LoTR, and Peanuts (the comic) are.

Saying this is a "monopoly" leads to the believe that the 'NFL' should be 'forced' to allow competition. Lets just force Tom Clancy to allow me to create a game based on one of his books then. The NFL is a entertainment creation of a company and as such they have the right to license it to anyone they see fit to.

Good for them in the long run? Nope. A Monopoly? No, again.

I guess the fact that their are government jobs associated with sports such as commissioners -etc.. and their are no such positions for games or movies as entertainment venues is where the confusion is coming from for many people. Then their is the whole public funding for facilities and what not on top of that.

I guess if sports were treated as other forms of entertainment then I doubt there would be issues.

*Again*, not that I like the NFL-EA exclusive deal any more than a lot of other people here, as I believe 2K Sports was putting out a superior football game at the time it went through, but to call it a monopoly is ridiculous and lowers the intellectual level of this site.

~the1jeffy posted some characteristics of a monopoly, and he is correct, but for those characteristics to ring true here, we have to examine what is a commodity. For the definition of a monopoly, "NFL video game" is not a commodity. "Football Video Game" is not a commodity. "Sports video game" is not a commodity. "Video Game" by itself IS a commodity. And quite obviously, the NFL-EA deal does not in any way, shape or form monopolize video games as a whole.

Also, it should be noted that if the granting of an exclusive license creates a monopoly, then just about every video game publisher out there who makes a game based upon licensed content is guilty of monopoly. THQ is the only publisher out there allowed to make WWE video games, but nobody notices this situation because WWE always went with an exclusive license (Acclaim before THQ). And pretty much all your movie, comic and TV licenses are exclusive as well.

Finally, I can't see how EA can be blamed at all here. Everything I've heard says it's the NFL who wanted to make the big push from multiple licenses to an exclusive license (as is their complete right to do). If EA was stupid enough to have passed on it, 2K Sports surely would have snapped it up.

This is a monopoly. It's like if only Toyota could make cars with four wheels. Sure, people could buy cars with 3 or 5 wheels, but they don't. Every competitor faces a huge barrier to entry into the market, because people want cars with 4 wheels.

It's the same way with the NFL brand. People show up to buy the NFL game in their NFL hats, their NFL jerseys, and, if it's cold, their NFL jackets. It would be like making a soccer(football) game without any real soccer players(footballers), and having to compete against the game with David Beckham on the box.

What Sega should do is hog all the NBA and Collage Basketball liceases like EA has done with the NFL and Collage Fopotball lieases. Give EA a taste of it's own medcine by saying that Ea can never make any Basketbal games ever until the year 3000!
 
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