EA Being Sued By Gamers Due to Football License Exclusivity

December 28, 2010Written by Paulmichael Contreras

There was once a time when EA Sports was not the only company that you could get your officially-licensed NFL football game. But that all changed in December 2004, when EA signed a deal with the NFL that gave exclusive rights to use the license in its video games. Two gamers had signed a lawsuit against the company, and it looks like the suit may finally be headed to court.

Two gamers from Washington, D.C. filed a class-action lawsuit against Electronic Arts. The lawsuit’s central argument was that EA’s deal with the NFL should be considered “blatantly anticompetitve conduct.” This is mostly based on EA’s actions before nabbing the exclusivity license and after. In 2004, when no company had said license, Take-Two Interactive released NFL 2K5 for a low $19.99 price. EA responded by selling Madden 2005 at $29.95 instead of its original price of $49.95. NFL 2K5 went on to sell over 2.9 million copies, a dramatic increase from NFL 2K4‘s sales of under 450,000 copies. In a controversial move later that year, EA signed an agreement with the NFL which gave the Madden series exclusive rights to use the license. Madden 2006 went on to sell at the then-normal price of $49.99, while Take-Two didn’t have another football game entry until 2007’s All-Pro Football 2K8, which proceeded to sell around 275,000 copies. Steve Berman, the lawyer assigned to the suit, has stated their side to the case:

We believe EA forced consumers to pay an artificial premium on Madden NFL videogames… We intend to prove that EA could inflate prices on their sports titles because these exclusive licenses restrained trade and competition for interactive sports software.

The suit is also seeking payment for damages to anyone who has purchased an Electronic Arts football game since August 2005. If you’d like to add your name to the list of plaintiffs, you can do so here.

A judge recently allowed the lawsuit (originally filed in mid-2008) to proceed, so if the ruling is handed down the way the plaintiffs desire, we may see the NFL license declared null and void and perhaps even a licensed version of NFL 2K someday. Stay connected with PlayStation LifeStyle for more on this as it (slowly) develops.