The jury hearing the lawsuit between Electronic Arts and original Madden programmer and designer Robin Antonick delivered a stinging verdict this evening. After just three days of deliberations, a jury in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California ruled in favor of Robin Antonick, awarding him what should be (with interest) more than $11 million, according to his legal team. The ruling also opens the door for Antonick to pursue the same claims against EA for games released after 1996.
Aaron Hernandez, who was charged with murder on June 26, will be removed from both Madden 25 and NCAA 14, according to a report from Joystiq . Hernandez was a tight end for the New England Patriots, prior to being charged with the June 17 homicide of Odin L. Lloyd in North Attleboro, Massachusetts.
Electronic Arts has lost a lawsuit against Robin Antonick, the original designer and developer of Electronic Arts’ (NASDAQ: EA) best-selling Madden NFL Football games. Antonick alleged that he had signed multiple publishing and development contracts, culminating in a 1986 agreement that required EA to pay him royalties on any derivative works related to the original version of EA Madden, including current annual releases. The agreement also prohibited EA from using his confidential information.
A mildly amusing story on My San Antonio details how the new head coach for the Texas Tech Football program is preparing players coming back from Spring break to get ready for training camps this summer. A tweet from Texas Tech offensive lineman Alfredo Morales offers a picture of a note from the new coach Kliff Kingsbury which details his advice to returning players:
Here's some more bad news for Wii U owners that might also be Madden NFL game fans: you won't be getting the popular football franchise on your platform of choice this year, according to this Ars Technica story. More importantly, what does EA's decision not to support the Wii U with one of its biggest sports franchises say about the current perception of Nintendo's struggling console system?
A federal judge has ruled that a case brought against EA by the original developer of John Madden Football may proceed to trial. The developer, Robin Antonick, claims that he was the original designer and developer of the Madden NFL series (he worked on the early computer-based versions of the game) and is owed "millions in unpaid royalties, punitive damages and disgorgement of all profits arising from the $5 billion Madden NFL franchise."
Electronic Arts will have to give customers who spent money on an EA football game between 2005 and 2012 triple the amount of settlement money per game thanks to recent modifications to the $27 million settlement in a class action suit against Electronic Arts, according to a notice obtained by Polygon. Under the new terms, a consumer who bought an NFL game will now receive $20.37 per last-gen game on PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube and Windows PC, up from $6.79.
If you thought that the only safe haven from political ads was your favorite video game, think again! Electronic Arts will start serving up ads from President Barrack Obama's campaign in the hopes of capturing the attention of the young and hip gamer demographic.
The dynamic advertising campaign will appear in many of EA's console, mobile and casual games leading up to the November election. The Obama campaign hopes to recapture some of the younger voter demographic and encourage early voting enthusiasm in the process.
Based on EA's own internal estimates, sell-through for Madden NFL 13 was up 8 percent year-over-year on console platforms with more than 1.65 million units sold in week one (Aug. 28-Sept. 3) to mark what the company calls its best start ever on this console generation. Last week, EA announced that Madden NFL 13 had set a new release-day record on current generation consoles as well.
While it's not much of a shock, it is still a good sign that Madden as a franchise is strong at retail and as popular as ever with consumers. Electronic Arts claims that Madden NFL 13 has managed to sell-through 900,000 units in its first 24 hours of release. The company said that the number represented a 7 percent year-over-year increase on HD platforms. Madden NFL 13 also set a day one online usage record with a 28 percent increase in peak simultaneous users over last year’s first day.
An error with an image in Madden NFL 13 has one NFL star agitated to no end. New York Giants player Marcus Thomas was upset when he noticed that an in-game photo of a different Marcus Thomas was in his profile. That Marcus Thomas played for the Denver Broncos three years ago and looks nothing like the New York Giants star.
Obviously the Marcus Thomas who was supposed to be pictured in the game wasn't too happy about it and took to Twitter:
Electronic Arts has agreed to give up the exclusive rights to create games based on the NCCA and AFL, and to pay $27 million to customers as part of a class action lawsuit settlement. The lawsuit alleged that EA had created a football game monopoly and used its position to edge out competing companies by adjusting prices downward, and locking down exclusive licenses. When that competition disappeared EA then raised the price of its games back to normal levels.
The lawsuit filed against Electronic Arts by retired NFL players is moving forward. A California judge has rejected EA's motion to have the case dismissed. The suit, filed by several retired NFL players wants it to turn into a class action so that some 6,000 defendants can be represented. The lawsuit alleges that EA through its EA Sports brand used their likenesses without consent in multiple Madden NFL games over the years. Electronic Arts argues that it is basically fair use and that real names were never used.
Police are actively looking for an African American male who stole nearly $4,000 in Madden NFL 12 video games from an Orange Park, Florida Walmart. The incident happened at the Walmart on County Road 220 on the afternoon of August 31. The suspect has been at large ever since, but police are showing off surveillance footage (to your left) from the store in hopes of apprehending him.
Electronic Arts has asked a California court to dismiss a lawsuit brought forward by former Madden NFL developer Robin Antonick. Antonick, a programmer who helped create the original John Madden Football while working as a contractor 20 years ago, sued EA earlier this year claiming that he is owed twenty years worth of royalties.
On Tuesday, EA asked the Californian Federal Court to dismiss Antonick's claims because they are invalid. EA disputes the claim of "code legacy," because the game was built from the ground up when the second game was made and provided Antonick with the source code of that game as proof. Antonick's claims describe the four key areas of the code as "methods, processes and algorithms," but these concepts, EA argues, are not covered by US copyright law.
Ian Cummings, the man that served for nearly 11 years as the creative director for the popular football game franchise Madden NFL, has left the company. The exodus from his EA Sports gig of 11 years seems to be amicable if you believe his official statement on the matter.
Cummings recounts his climb from the ranks of the QA department all the way to creative director, and thanks fans for their support and enthusiasm over the years. Cummings last game at the studio is Madden NFL 12. Cummings' full statement can be found below:
Robin Antonick, who is credited with programming the very first Madden game, is suing Electronic Arts for royalty payments he never received. With 85 million copies sold to date that could prove to be a lot of money if Antonick prevails in court. Antonick is asking for a jury trial in California in a lawsuit filed Wednesday. He claims that EA cut him out of the Madden franchise fortune.
Antonick claims that he created the football video game and had signed a development contract with EA in 1986 that entitled him to royalties on "derivative versions" of the Madden franchise.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are apparently cheesed off that Michael Vick has advanced to the "Sweet 16: of fan voting to determine who will grace the cover of Madden 2012. They should be grateful if Vick wins the distinction because Madden NFL cover athletes tend to have very bad luck.
"I can tell you we've already received the letters from our good friends at PETA urging us to take him out of the bracket," EA Sports president Peter Moore said recently at the World Congress of Sports in Miami. "I personally believe, and this is personal commentary right now, that Michael served his time. He's had a tremendous season."
Concerned about the on-going negotiations between the NFL Players Association and the NFL, one analyst offers his worst-case scenarios on the impact of EA Sports' next Madden Football game.
Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter is saying that as much as half of Madden's sales could be lost if a lockout cancels the entire NFL season. Keep in mind that that is a worst-case scenario. Pachter is the only analyst willing to offer a prediction on this.
"If the season is only delayed a week or two and fans aren't alienated, there would be only a very small impact," Pachter told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this week. "If delayed through Thanksgiving, the impact would be far greater."
While that's an extreme prediction and probably not very likely, Electronic Arts COO John Schappert is not taking any chances. He says that the company has planned on "the most conservative assumption, meaning no season."
Testimony in a Wichita, Kansas murder case that revolves around Madden NFL 2010 began this week in Wichita Kansas. A judge began hearing the events that lead to the death of one man at the hands of two brothers after an argument over cheating in the video game.
While playing Madden NFL 2010, 22-year-old Luke German was accused of cheating by two brothers - 26-year-old Christopher Redgate and 22-year-old Benjamin Redgate. The argument escalated, prosecutors say, into an assault with a metal pipe that lead to German's death. The brothers face second-degree murder charges for the crime. A medical examiner determined that German died of multiple blunt-force trauma injuries and strangulation.
A judge began hearing testimony about the October fight in a preliminary hearing for Christopher Redgate. His brother waived his right to a preliminary hearing in the Sedgwick County District Court.
A U.S. District judge has certified a class-action antitrust case involving the alleged price fixing of Electronic Arts' football titles.
According to the decision, any consumers who purchased Madden, Arena Football or NCAA football games in 2005 can sign on as plaintiffs on the case and be represented by a single law firm.
According to a story on Gamasutra:
In the past it didn't really mean anything - beyond your own personal satisfaction hidden deep in your heart - to win the Super Bowl in Madden. But in Madden 2011 EA Sports has brought in the President of the United States to make the occasion more important, more exciting, than it ever has been before.
Whether you are madly in love with President Barrack Obama or still insist he is not a legitimate citizen of the United States of America, you have to admit that this is how a Super Bowl victory in a game should be treated. No? Then I guess you'd better watch the wall to your left because it's time for the Kool-Aid Man bust through and to top off your glass.
According to ESPN.com, Super Bowl winners will be treated to much celebration including team specific commentary by Gus Johnson, a lavish parade with cheering crowds and boisterous celebrations, and a trip to the White House where your star player will shake hands and present him with the team's jersey.
Sassy. For those of you about to go into a rage, a comment on ESPN.com sums things up nicely:
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled against the Nation Football League (NFL) in terms of specific antitrust language, which emerged from a lawsuit brought against the sports entity by apparel manufacturer American Needle.
American Needle had charged that the NFL’s exclusive apparel agreement with Reebok limited competition, violated the Sherman Act and led to higher prices for consumers. American Needle further charged that an agreement between NFL Properties (NFLP) and Reebok did not allow the company to negotiate apparel agreements with individual teams.
In its decision (PDF), authored by retiring Justice Stevens, SCOTUS unanimously reversed a lower court’s ruling, and, according to SCOTUS Blog, “cleared the way Monday for trial of a lawsuit against the joint marketing of the right to use the teams’ logos and trademarks on consumer goods.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case of American Needle v. NFL next week and perhaps give the NFL broader protection against antitrust lawsuits.
At the heart of the case is an exclusive deal that the NFL has with Reebok as the official seller of hats,. jerseys and clothes using team insignias. American Needle lost its right to sell those items when the league reached the deal with Reebok in 2000.
Where this impacts the videogame industry is the exclusive license that Electronic Arts has with the NFL as the sole purveyor of an NFL-branded videogame with the Madden NFL series. According to a Reuters article:
A broad ruling could insulate professional sports leagues from antitrust claims over video-game licenses, television rights, franchise relocation and even player salaries. Only Major League Baseball is exempt from antitrust laws now.
In the past, the court has kept a tight rein on antitrust suits, and legal analysts say that the mere fact that the court has agreed to hear the case means it could be sympathetic to the NFL's claims for broader protection.
The case for the NFL, according to brief it filed:
“A sports league produces a single entertainment product, a structured series of athletic competitions leading to a championship, that no member club could produce on its own."
However, American Needle countered with:
“The teams are separately owned and controlled profit- making enterprises. They are actual and potential competitors in numerous areas, including the licensing of intellectual property.”
Electronic Arts has come out on the side of the NFL for obvious reasons, and the antitrust protection for the NFL could ensure EA's deal from outside interference as long as the NFL sees fit to continue the contract.
Late last year, NFL retirees won a massive $28 million verdict against their former union, the NFLPA, when a federal court jury in San Francisco decided that the old time players' images had been used in EA's popular Madden series without their authorization.
Following an appeal, the retirees accepted a just slightly less massive $26.25 million settlement. Although EA was not a defendant in the case, there has been talk by at least one militant former NFL player that a similar suit against the publisher may be in the offing.
It's very clear that, despite the big settlement dollars, hard feelings linger among the retirees. One of the more outspoken ex-players, former Oakland Raider Dave Pear, bitterly notes that EA has licensed realistic weather for Madden, but won't pay to use former players, who no longer appear in the game. Pear writes:
Retired players are so sick and tired of getting ripped off every time they turn around. We recently came across an article that Electronic Arts was partnering with The Weather Channel to pay them for weather statistics to make Madden Football X more “realistic” – but they DON’T want to pay the retired football players themselves for their stats in order to make the game more “realistic”. I wonder when they’re planning on screwing around with the weather so they won’t have to pay for that either...
Gamers who purchased a copy of Madden from August, 2005 onward may be eligible to join a class action suit against publisher Electronic Arts.
Pecover vs. EA (all GP coverage here) is currently proceeding in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The suit alleges that EA's exclusive licensing deal with the NFL and NFL Players Association created a monopoly situation which EA exploited by substantially raising the retail price for a copy of Madden.
In a story broken recently by GamePolitics, an expert witness hired by the plaintiffs theorized that EA's exclusive NFL/NFLPA license may have cost consumers nearly a billion dollars. Lawyers for EA have disputed that claim in court documents.
In a press release issued on Friday, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, the law firm representing consumers in the case, provides a link where Madden buyers can learn more about the suit and potentially join as additional plaintiffs.
Lead attorney Steve Berman, quoted in the press release, pulled no punches in his assessment of EA's position regarding Madden:
There is nothing wrong with good, strong competition in a free market, but we believe EA rigged the game to take advantage of consumers.
EA knows that the demand for these games is based on how realistically the players and teams are portrayed. When EA signed into exclusive agreements it knowingly killed the only competing game of comparable quality, [Take-Two's] NFL 2K5.
The sports video game business is clearly in a period of legal upheaval as yet another class-action suit involving the licensing of athletes' images has emerged.
In the latest development, former UCLA power forward Ed O'Bannon is the lead plaintiff in a federal class action suit charging that the NCAA unlawfully deprived former student athletes of compensation for the use of their likenesses in, among other things, video games, DVDs, jerseys and stock video footage.
O'Bannon led UCLA to the 1995 NCAA Championship and played for three seasons in the NBA.
Michael Hausfield, whose firm, Hausfield LLP is representing O'Bannon and other members of the plaintiff class, offers this comment in a press release issued this morning:
No one has a right to own or control another person’s image or likeness for eternity without providing fair compensation. Former student athletes should have a voice in how their own images or likenesses – once they are no longer students – are used throughout their lifetime.
In his Sports Law column for Sports Illustrated/CNN, Vermont Law School professor Michael McCann terms the stakes in the case "enormous." McCann's full column is worth a read. Here's a taste:
There are two core areas of law implicated by O'Bannon v. NCAA.
First, by requiring student-athletes to forgo their identity rights in perpetuity, the NCAA has allegedly restrained trade in violation of the Sherman Act... Student-athletes, but for their authorization of the NCAA to license their images and likenesses, would be able to negotiate their own licensing deals after leaving college... For example, if former student-athletes could negotiate their own licensing deals, multiple video game publishers could publish games featuring ex-players. More games could enhance technological innovation and lower prices for video game consumers.
Second... the [former players argue that] NCAA has deprived them of their "right of publicity." The right of publicity refers to the property interest of a person's name or likeness, i.e. one's image, voice or even signature...
It's important to note that the O'Bannon lawsuit is directed at the NCAA, not video game publishers. In addition, it deals only with licensing issues relating to former, not current NCAA athletes. On that score, however, O'Bannon requests that a trust be established with any funds won in the case; such proceeds would benefit today's players when they are finished with their collegiate careers.
In addition to the O'Bannon case, a pair of recent class-action suits by former college football players Sam Keller and Ryan Hart target the NCAA and Electronic Arts over similar licensing issues. And, as GamePolitics reported last month, retired NFL players won a $26.5 settlement with the National Football League Players Association over their unlicensed use in EA's popular Madden series. EA was not a defendant in that case, but some militant voices among the retired players advocate pursuing the Madden publisher at some future point.
Turbulent times, indeed...
Yesterday's GamePolitics report detailing a University of Michigan economist's estimate that EA's exclusive NFL deal cost Madden buyers as much as $926 million raised a number of eyebrows, including those attached to the forehead of Michael Pachter (left).
In an e-mail exchange with GamePolitics, the Wedbush-Morgan analyst scoffed at the monopoly theory offered by Dr. Jeffrey MacKie-Mason in a filing last week with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. MacKie-Mason was hired as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in a class-action suit filed in 2008 by a pair of gamers who allege that EA exploited its exclusive NFL deal to jack up the price of its popular Madden series.
Here's what Pachter had to say:
What kind of fool is this U of Michigan economics professor? ...Madden (according to NPD) sold 23 million units in 2006 - 2009, not the 30 million that Dr. MacKie-Mason claims... The total retail sales were $1.034 billion, meaning that EA's cut was around $800 million (retail margin is 20%). How in the world does [MacKie-Mason] conclude that EA overcharged by more than they generated?
For the four year period, EA's average retail price was $44. For the period 1995 - 2005 (when either Sega or Take-Two provided [NFL 2K series] competition), EA generated $1.548 billion of sales on 36 million units, for an average price of $43. In other words, WITH competition, the price was $43, and WITHOUT competition, the price was $44.18...
I rarely read anything that gets me so incensed... They may have some odd estimates I'm not aware of, but based on what you printed, they should be embarrassed. You can quote me.
Here's more: Take-Two discounted [NFL 2K5] to $19.99 to gain market share, and lost their butts in the process. It's the same as a dollar menu at McDonald's that is a loss leader in order to gain share, and McDonald's hopes people buy the high-margin soft drink. There is no "right" among consumers to receive a perpetual discount just because one retailer decides to discount below cost...
It strikes me as irresponsible that the professor would focus on the NFL exclusive as if there is some god-given right for consumers to have all intellectual property available for exploitation by any business that chooses to do so in the name of competition...
The ONLY I/P that has ever been licensed to multiple video game parties is team sports. The NFL, Major League Baseball, FIFA, and NCAA Basketball have all chosen to go the exclusive route for games, similar to the contracts for all movie-based games.
GP: As GamePolitics reported yesterday, MacKie-Mason acknowledges that his analysis is based on incomplete data. In a response filing, attorneys for EA (who were similarly contemptuous of MacKie-Mason's theory) agreed to furnish available documentation dating back to 2001.
A University of Michigan economics professor estimates that Electronic Arts collectively overcharged Madden buyers between $701 million and $926 million during the years 2006 through 2009.
Dr. Jeffrey MacKie-Mason made his claim in a document filed last week with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Mackie-Mason was brought into the case as an expert witness by attorneys representing Geoffrey Pecover and Jeffrey Lawrence. The pair of gamers are named plaintiffs in a class-action suit alleging that EA used its exclusive licensing deal with the NFL to eliminate Take Two Interactive's competing NFL 2K series. The suit charges that EA then exploited the resulting competitive vacuum to dramatically raise the retail price of Madden.
While MacKie-Mason acknowledges that his estimates are based on incomplete data, he writes:
I provide this information for the limited purpose of allowing the Court to assess in rough terms the burden on Electronic Arts in relation to the magnitude of potential damages... Under California's antitrust statute, it is my understanding that these damages would be trebled.
MacKie-Mason arrived at the eye-popping figures using an estimated overcharge percentage that ranged from 50% to 66% for the 30.04 million units of Madden sold during the 2006-2009. He writes:
When Take-Two was able to compete unhindered, Madden NFL's competitive price was in the range of $19.95 to $29.95. I assume for this exercise that these would have been Madden's prices but for the alleged [monopolistic] acts.
Based on Mackie-Mason's estimate, attorneys for the plaintiffs have requested additional data for Madden sales going back to 2001. In a response, attorneys for EA agreed to supply as many of the requested documents as they could locate, but were unsparing in their assessment of Mackie-Mason's analysis:
EA respectfully submits that Dr. MacKie-Mason's analysis is fundamentally flawed on multiple levels. Indeed, Dr. MacKie-Mason's estimated magnitude of damages is nothing more than pure fiction - it has no basis in fact or law...
As GamePolitics reported last month, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the plaintiffs' monopoly suit could go forward, but limited the scope of the case to claims arising in California and Washington, D.C. where Pecover and Lawrence reside.