George Atallah Strongly Suggests NFL Will Renew Its Exclusivity Agreement with EA
Posted by Mejdy Jabr on Friday, March 01, 2013
The NFL 2K series was spawned from Electronic Arts Sports' own refusal to release Madden for the Sega Dreamcast in the year 2000. While the Dreamcast, predictably, was a bust, the NFL 2K series outlived its original console as well as other NFL gaming franchises (i.e. NFL Fever and NFL GameDay).
In 2004, Sega signed a deal with Take-Two Interactive, and the merger gave rise to ESPN NFL 2K5.
Still considered to be the greatest football video game of all-time by some, 2K5 gave EA an unexpected run for their money, and I mean that literally. 2K5 was released in July for only $19.95 while EA released Madden in August for its traditional - and by comparison, whopping - price of $49.99.
To make matters worse for the company, NFL 2K5 wasn't just the kind of game that kids in lower middle class homes were playing; there was a legitimate case that could be made in which one would find 2K5 to be superior by way of quality. Here is a compilation of its reviews from Metacritic.
With the possibility of the new ESPN NFL 2K franchise usurping Madden as the people's choice for NFL gaming, EA used the one asset that they unquestionably had over Take-Two Interactive: money.
Via Darren Rovell for ESPN.com in 2004:
The partnership, which will commence with the publishing of Electronic Arts' Madden game next August, eliminates the competitive battle EA endured this year with ESPN's NFL 2K5 game, a joint venture between Sega and Take-Two Interactive. Without the use of team and player names, generic games have struggled for survival in the current environment.
Before this year, EA's Madden franchise -- which the company has sold more than 40 million copies of since its debut in 1989 -- previously dominated the football game marketplace. Bit players, including Midway, 989 Sports and Microsoft, dropped out of the licensed football game business this year.
But the Madden 2005 game was seriously challenged by NFL 2K5, thanks to good reviews and a pricing war. NFL 2K5 was available in stores in July for $19.95. For three months, the Madden game was priced at $49.95, until the company finally relented on Nov. 8 and lowered it by $20.
"We considered a whole variety of factors in making this decision," said Gene Goldberg, the NFL's vice president of consumer products. "We chose EA based on game quality, marketing ability and track record."
As part of the deal, EA will have access to NFL resources, including video, audio and music scores from NFL Films. The partnership pertains to every aspect of gaming, including content for hand-held games and personal computers.
Goldberg said he's not concerned that the monopoly on the business will cause EA to relax the year-to-year innovations that have been pushed by recent competition. Though financial terms of the deal are not known, Goldberg said there is "a lot of self-imposed pressure to improve the product to make it stand out in a robust and diverse marketplace."
In a statement, Take-Two spokesman Ed Nebb disagreed.
"We believe that the decisions of the National Football League and Players Inc. to grant an exclusive license for videogames do a tremendous disservice to the consumers and sports fans whose funds ultimately support the NFL, by limiting their choices, curbing creativity and almost certainly leading to higher game prices," Nebb said. The game was "not a material contributor" to the company's profitability, "nor was it expected to be," Nebb said.Although it took a few years, a lawsuit was eventually filed against EA in 2008, claiming that the company's exclusive NFL license had monopolized the world of football video gaming. The short story of it is that both sides reached a relatively menial settlement last year, and most importantly, Electronic Arts retained its exclusivity rights. Via Kotaku:
Madden's exclusive license with the NFL emerged unscathed from the $27 million settlement of a four-year-old class action lawsuit alleging that the deal was an illegal monopoly.
Though gamers are entitled to some monetary refund if they bought an American football product from EA Sports between 2005 and now, it is a paltry sum—up to $1.95 if they bought a Madden game for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or Wii, up to $6.79 if they bought a Madden game on the PlayStation 2, GameCube or original Xbox.
The settlement's most notable restriction is a five-year ban on any exclusive license between EA Sports and the NCAA, once their current pact expires in 2014. But this has little real effect, as the last NCAA football video game published by someone other than EA Sports was Sega's College Football 2K3 a decade ago. EA Sports is still free to strike any non-exclusive deal with the NCAA after 2014.
It was the hated exclusive license between EA Sports and the NFL, which drove out the NFL 2K series, that this lawsuit targeted when it was filed in 2008. And though the settlement won monetary concessions for consumers who bought EA Sports NFL games published after that deal was reached, the publisher and the league are free to continue under its terms.Yesterday afternoon, George Atallah, Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs at the NFLPA, stopped by Reddit for an AMA. Amongst a number of interesting questions and answers given throughout, one discussion particularly resonated with me regarding the state of the soon-to-expire Exclusivity Agreement between the league and EA:
Traveladdict1234: George, I wanted to ask you about the madden exclusive license. Do you plan to end this soon? The the 9-yr exclusive license ends this year and the fans are sick and tired of not having a choice of picking a nfl game to play. Madden is becoming stale and the community wants 2k sports to have a chance to make video games again. Nfl 2k5 was the best representation of the nfl to this date.... Please make this happen Mr. Atallah. Thanks for your time.
GeorgeAtallahNFLPA: We have an agreement with EA and Madden. I have heard some opinions like yours, but honestly, EA is one of our best partners. I know they hear some of your input as well and work to improve the game every year.
Traveladdict1234: Sorry Mr. Atallah, but I will not purchase another ea nfl licensed game until the consumers are ale to have a choice again. The consumers should be in your best interest sir.
GeorgeAtallahNFLPA: I'm sorry to hear that. One thing to clarify though, my job and the job of the NFLPA, is to ensure that the players' interests are top priority. I know that might not be the most popular answer, but it's our mission.
d-listcelebrity: Translation: EA pays them a shit ton of money for an exclusive license. Splitting the licenses makes them less valuable and the players make less money.I don't want to oversimplify the situation, but unfortunately, d-listcelebrity has the right idea.
The other issue here is that fans of NFL gaming have never actually made an attempt to make EA pay by speaking with their wallets.
I've played the Madden franchise on and off for more than a decade. As of last year, I began boycotting Electronic Arts due to the company's likely hand in ruining a certain trilogy's ending and the fact that they're milking that awful ending for every dime that they can get their greedy hands on. Unfortunately, most of my friends who play EA games, specifically Madden, had very cynical perspectives on my boycotting the company. It's something that came to me naturally, though. I'm that fed up with them, and in this case, to see two groups of rich men so audaciously ignore their consumers' best interest the way Atallah, the rest of the NFLPA, and Electronic Arts have is quite irritating.
Even if you're a Madden fan, the idea of not having the opportunity to take your business elsewhere should leave everyone feeling a bit more upset than they have shown through sales statistics lately.
Can you imagine NBA gaming without NBA 2K and only NBA Live instead? Calling for a rally is bound to only end in failure and is extremely cliched anyway, but...
It's a cliche for a reason, right? The only way to put an end to an issue in the world of consumerism is through the voice (money) of every consumer.
If you want to have the option of possibly having a better NFL gaming experience, stand with Traveladdict1234 and pass on Madden '14.