Class Action Lawsuit Against Electronic Arts' 'Madden NFL Football'

Josh McCainSenior Writer IApril 8, 2011

GRAPEVINE, TX - FEBRUARY 03: Chase Daniel, Reggie Bush, and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints compete in the EA Sports Madden Bowl XVII on February 3, 2011 in Grapevine, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for EA Sports)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

This morning when I opened up my email, I had a little surprise waiting for me.

It was from EA Sports Litigation and it was informing of a class action suit against Electronic Arts Inc. brought forth by Geoffrey Pecover, Jeffery Lawrence and Adam Owens.

The email is your standard class action email; it informs me of my rights in the suit and how I can not participate if that is my choosing.

My first thought was that this email was a scam and was probably fishing for personal information.

So I fired up Google and did some research and, low and behold, this lawsuit is legitimate. Well, legitimate in the fact that it's an actual lawsuit. Its claims, however, I think are far from legitimate.

Here is the brief history for you. On Dec. 21, 2010 the plaintiffs filed a class action suit against EA claiming that its exclusive deal with the NFL, as well as being the only publisher of NCAA football and Arena League Football, violated United States Anti-Trust Laws.

First, let the irony of the NFL being accused of violating U.S. Anti-Trust Laws as well as the only maker of NFL games being sued for the same thing sink in. Okay, let's move on.

At first, I thought that this suit could be a good thing. I mean, those of us who play NFL games long for the days of "NFL2K". 

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Sometimes Sega's football game was better, sometimes it was not, but there was competition and it fueled both companies to give us their best efforts.

It seems that ever since EA got the exclusive rights to make NFL games it has just been going through the motions.

Don't get me wrong, "Madden NFL" is still a very good game, but since there is no competition, there seems to have been fewer innovations from year to year, unlike when it was competing with NFL2K.

In spite of that, I started to think a little more on the merits of this suit.

EA purchased exclusive rights to the NFL in 2004 and to the AFL and NCAA Football in 2005.

The rights to the NFL were set to expire in 2012, but with the lockout, the NFL has given EA a one-year extension. Also, the rights to the NCAA expire this year, 2011. The rights to the AFL expired in 2009.

U.S. Anti-Trust Laws are set up to promote competition amongst businesses as well as prevent price fixing.

It is my opinion that EA sports has done neither of these things.

The NFL, NFLPA, NCAA and AFL are all registered trademarks, and being that, any company wishing to make anything with those trademarks must get permission from those leagues.

These leagues can give permission or deny permission to whomever they see fit. Fiscally, these leagues felt an exclusive deal with EA would be more beneficial to them than allowing multiple companies to produce games with their trademarks.

This has not stopped other companies from publishing football games, however.

In fact, right after the deal went down, 2K Sports (formally Sega Sports) signed an exclusive multi-platform deal with Major League Baseball and is the only company that can produce MLB games across multiple systems.

Also, 2K Sports created its own football game "All-Pro Football", which was made up of fictional teams (with amazing fictional stadiums) and rosters made up of former NFL players like Joe Montana, Barry Sanders and John Elway.

It was quite a good game (that outscored "Madden" in many reviews that year) but, sadly, I was apparently the only one who purchased it because it quickly went to the bargain bin and a sequel was never made.

Also this past year, a new football game from 505 Games called "Backbreaker" was released. It used the Euphoria engine, which allowed for the action to happen like it does in real life. There are no preloaded animations, and pretty much every tackle and play are unique.

It was an innovated first try from the studio and uses technology that one would hope that future Madden games might pick up.

However, like All-Pro from 2K Sports, this game was met with a lukewarm reception and quickly went to the bargain bin.

It would appear that not having the NFL license has hindered these games, but I go back to the fact that the NFL has a right to loan its trademark to any company it wants, and this does not violate and U.S. laws.

For more NFL and Videogame reviews and rants follow me on Twitter (@jomac006).


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