Notices arrive in EA class action over exclusive video-game licenses

Several readers have forwarded to PFT headquarters class-action notices received today in a lawsuit filed over the practice of EA purchasing exclusive licenses for the production and sale of sports video games.

The notices have been sent because a California judge has “certified” the class action against EA, which alleges that the cost of the exclusive license was passed along to consumers, making the product necessarily more expensive than it otherwise would have been.

“The class action lawsuit alleges violations of California’s antitrust and consumer protection laws in connection with the sale of certain football video games,” the notice states.  “Plaintiffs, purchasers of Electronic Arts’ football video games, claim that Defendant Electronic Arts entered into a series of exclusive licenses with the National Football League (NFL), National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA), National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), and Arena Football League (AFL), which Plaintiffs claim foreclosed competition in an alleged football video game market.  Plaintiffs allege that this series of exclusive licenses caused customers who purchased certain football video games to be overcharged.”
Several years ago, EA obtained an exclusive license with the NFL, freezing out of the market any potential competition.  Many believe that, without competition, the Madden franchise has stagnated.
The decision to certify the class doesn’t mean that EA has been found guilty of wrongdoing.  Instead, it means that all persons who have purchased video football games made by EA since January 1, 2005 will have their rights bound together.
To obtain further information, visit the class action’s official website —
Given that yours truly has purchased Madden every year throughout the past decade (some years on multiple platforms) and the NCAA game several times and even the AFL game, I’ll probably eventually get something like a coupon for $10 off my next purchase of an EA game, while the lawyers who filed the case get $10 million in fees.

41 responses to “Notices arrive in EA class action over exclusive video-game licenses

  1. I dont recall the price of the games changing. Least while they were available for PC it was 39.99. Now they are no different then any other AAA release on consoles.

  2. While the check in the mail would be nice, open competition would mean that EA would have to stop patting itself on the back for Madden 05 or whatever the first iteration of Madden was for the 360, and would actually have to get up off the couch and develop a better game with some new features. Maybe making the difficulty going up mean that the offense and defense schemes to adapt to your gameplan better instead of having linebackers jump 10 feet in the air, and cornerbacks who arent looking at the ball and are covering another receiver break to the ball you just threw. Time for some innovation on that game. Where has the create your own plays and playbook gone?

  3. This is stupid. Madden costs the same as any other video game on the market.

    And it would cost that much with or without the exclusive licenses.

    This is just lawyers stealing money.

  4. Too bad the whole NFLPA* decertification and the lockout didn’t void EA’s exclusive license so we could get a decent game that wasn’t a friggin roster update every year for the price of a new game.

    I stopped buying Madden since Madden 08, since it regressed with the “Next Gen” engine and hasn’t been the same since.

  5. It’s about time i hope the force EA to give up the exclusive rights contract, then maybe we could start getting some decent football games again.

  6. I’ll never buy madden again. All I can hope for is another developor to attain an NFL license as well. Ea has stolen millions if not billions from the public over the last 5 years by promising vast improvements from year to year. What does the public get? The same old sh*t. I’m done with them.

  7. There are two things I despised about EA’s exclusive license with the NFL and NFLPA:

    1) Instead of trying to make a better game, EA spent millions eliminating it’s competition with the exclusive license. Brilliant business tactics but the customers lost out on that one because the game could be much better.

    2) Three years ago, EA decided to eliminate the PC version of Madden. With no other video game football games available for that platform people who don’t own a game console are out of luck. This shouldn’t be legal.

  8. Visual Concepts released NFL2K5 for $19.99, virtually declaring war on EA and Madden, believing (correctly IMO) that their iteration of NFL Football was superior and people were just hesitant to try it out. EA must’ve panicked and sought to eliminate the competition. Unfortunately the real casualties were consumers (not unlike this “lockout: situation). Goodell was only too happy to oblige….for a price. I hope that this suit breaks up the EA Monopoly over NFL Football video games. Their stagnant franchise has always been fraught with visual and game-play flaws. They need competition. Look at how the NBA 2K franchise ranks EAs version and you’ll see what could be in store…

  9. Well the lockout and now this just goes to show you the fans are always getting screwed and the lawyers are always getting paid.

    If they take away the draft, the lawyers get millions, players get even more than before, the teams have to raise ticket prices on the fans, the NFL package goes up as well, EA Sports says forget this and stops making Madden, how does any of this benifit the fan?

    I just don’t see how anything is ever being done to benifit the fan EVER!

  10. Instead of challenging the exclusive license that EA has with the NFL, let’s challenge the exclusive license that DirecTV has with the NFL in the form of NFL Sunday Ticket. Talk about price gouging and not giving customers value for their dollars (not to mention, completely stifling competition). If someone out there is a lawyer and you want to get a class action suit together against the NFL and DirecTV, I’ll be number one on the list of plaintiffs.

  11. Out of interest, does it matter if the game was purchased outside of the US? Say, Canada or the UK?

  12. I thought the NFL game that ESPN put out was at least as good as Madden, and sold for about $20 less.

  13. Remember when Atarii sold the ESPN NFL 05 game for $20? Madden had to lower there price to compte. Then the next year the bought the rights and the game went back up to it’s high price. I think thats where this lawsuit is coming from. EA sports got there ass kicked back then, then bought all the rights so it wouldn’t happen again.

  14. Like others have said, I miss NFL 2k. and Madden has regressed. The Franchise Mode in older generation Madden games was actually superior and 2K was even better than that! I hope EA’s monopoly is broken soon so that competition will force better games on the market.

    On a happier note, one benefit of living in the Bay Area is knowing EA employees and having access to the EA store…all games $20.

  15. This type of class action serves no purpose other that to insure that a few lawyers walk away with a windfall of cash. The book King of Torts really does this justice.

    Now as for the lawsuit itself, while I understand the argument, the cost of all video games seems to fixed, $59.99 for Xbox and $49.99 for Wii. So while it is hard to prove that the exclusive deal between EA and the NFL is causing a higher price being affixed to Madden, it is easier to prove that the cost of all Xbox and Wii games is a fixed price. That is, the cost of the game is not associated with the cost to create the game.

    This might be a much more productive class action suit.

  16. The 2K series was a better game (and getting better every year) The folks at EA and Madden had no clue what to do but open their wallets to close out the competition….I say bring back the 2K NFL version. We will ALL see and play a superior game.

  17. This has nothing to do with the quality of the game being subpar because of the exclusive rights. It has to do with consumers having to pay “more money for the game” because of the license. That’s garbage. A new release of the Madden games has cost no more (and no less) than any of the other “premium” games that have come out in that same year on the same platforms.

    I agree with ozz2012; sounds like are just trying to make a payday. I would bet that it was a lawyer who initiated the lawsuit as a plaintiff and now plans on gaining some fees/costs to be paid as a result of any settlement or favorable finding from the court.

  18. FYI, the NFL pushed for the exclusive licensing (same thing they’re doing with Sunday Ticket and DirecTV). EA actually doesn’t want the exclusive licensing because they end up paying more for it.

  19. keep complaining people until we wont have an nfl game, nfl2k were the worst football games i ever played madden is excellent they could add some new stuff each year but you people will never be satisfied

  20. Can the lawyers make them give you an option of paying 10 dollars for roster updates each year or 60 bucks for a new game?

    Because with the miniscule “improvements” made each year, I’d prefer to buy a new version every 4 or 5 years and just get the rosters updated for me each year.

    If the lawyers could do that, I’d stop bad-mouthing lawyers.

  21. It’s just a video game. If you shell out $40-$50 bucks for a game you deserve what you get. There ONE born everyday!

  22. How about sending a notification that this game sucks. The gameplay is the same every year. Please let 2k take a turn. I mean look what 2k did to nba live haha

  23. They are attacking the wrong thing – they cost as much as any other non exclusive new release.

    Where consumers are getting screwed is the quality and lack of choices by not having any competition.

  24. It’s just a video game. If you shell out $40-$50 bucks for a game you deserve what you get. There ONE born everyday!
    and you clearly are the one, thanks for letting us know

  25. “Caldon says:
    Apr 6, 2011 7:41 PM
    It’s just a video game. If you shell out $40-$50 bucks for a game you deserve what you get. There ONE born everyday!
    and you clearly are the one, thanks for letting us know”

    Shut the hell up… If u don’t have nothing to write about the topic then dont write… To some people, playing gaming consoles is thier hobby.. And it’s a crappy thing to year in and out pay 60 bucks for essentially the same game.. EA is such a rip off and I glad they are doing something to wake them up.. Hopefully they’ll make a new project or let 2k come back and kick thier ass again..

  26. I want two things:
    a. bring back a PC version, either from EA or someone else. That was the Madden I enjoyed from 2002-08. 2004 and 2007 were my favorites. 2008 was decent.
    b. A PC NCAA version. EA for whatever reason never did that. I never heard why.

  27. Madden ’04: $49.99

    NFL2K5: $19.99, Madden ’05 reduced to $24-29 to compete while still profitable.

    Madden ’06, after getting exclusive rights: $49.99

    Yes, I think the class action suit has excellent merit. As for the argument above that all game prices are about the same and have nothing to do with costs: that is completely irrelevant. Price theory is such that price is supposed to be set at what a competitive market will bear. It has nothing to do with how much a product or service costs to produce.

    Clearly, EA conducted an anti-competitive move. It will be interesting to see if the courts also see it that way. What makes the case fascinating is that NFL has an antitrust exemption; EA does not. Does antitrust extend to those the NFL grants exclusive contracts to? I guess we’ll find out.

  28. thefiesty1 says:
    Apr 6, 2011 6:43 PM

    It’s just a video game. If you shell out $40-$50 bucks for a game you deserve what you get. There ONE born everyday!

    Seriously? Not that this is on topic here…but wtf is up with people and the whole “video games are a waste of time” or “video games are just for children” crap? It’s not the gamers who need to grow up.

    Back on topic…it’s true the Madden series costs just as much as every other game, except you’re really just getting an expansion pack each year, with updates to the uniforms and player names. 2K sports proved they could make the game and sell it for half price, while the fans got a superior product. However, like with any crappy product, people will continue to shell out the money because it really is the only game on the market like it. At least when Pepsi decides to start filling their bottles with fecal matter, we can drink coke. But when you open your Madden box and get the same feces as last year, that’s all you got.

  29. First off, anything that brings back some competition for an NFL football game is aces in my book. While I am one of the ‘suckers’ that buy Madden every year (although I do have the same $20/game hookup at EA as someone else mentioned), it has been on a steady decline. The franchise mode is atrocious, and the only thing they even attempt to focus on is online, and that is a half-hearted effort at best.

    Unfortunately however, I don’t know how this lawsuit will play out as anything other than a minor pain in the ass for EA’s legal team. Madden cost the same as every other game, and you can’t have courts telling companies how much they are allowed to mark up a product.

    The EA brass are very shrewd businessmen, but don’t give a collective damn about the people who are buying their product.

  30. In case a few of you dont realize it, here is EA’s formula for the madden franchise.

    It Regularly takes away certain parts of the game in leu of something new. such as taking away play creating abilities, while introducing ‘gameflow’. Only to re-introduce play creating the next year, advertising it as something great. Rinse and repeat.

    It also focuses of developing parts of the game that avid football fans could care less about. Such as ‘gameflow’ which only people who have no clue how to play football use. & yet that was they main thing they marketed last year.

    They should be upgrading franchise, is it that hard to randomly generate draft classes? so as to not draft the same guys every time you start a new franchise.

    also for franchise, there needs to be random ‘peak’ ages. so as that a player coming into the league at say, 19 or 20, doesnt hit their stride until they have been in the league a few years. conversely, players that come in at 23+ can be plugged in right away and contribute. this alone adds a whole other dynamic of draft strategy.

    And last but not least, a simple ‘newspaper’ would be sufficient to stroke most fans egos as they see their best player hoisting the lombardi on the front page when they finally win it all.

  31. @plum13sec

    Valid points, but wrong. I actually prefer the gameflow. It is more realistic in that you can creat your own gameplan for certain situations and not have to trod through 6-10 pages of plays to find the one your looking for. Thats not how the game plays out in real life. And where did you get your info on the draft classes? They are randomly generated, and if you want “realistic” drafts, upload a NCAA 11 draft class each year. Also, they have had Potential ratings for players for the last 3 releases so yet again you bring up an invalid point (however I would prefer if those ratings increaed like atributes do…). Now here is the main point… if 2K made a next gen game, would it be better? Many developers have stated that there is so much they don’t know about Next-Gen consoles still. PS3 Blu-Ray discs are barley filled for even the most in depth games, XBox 360 can span Multiple Discs and have limitless DLC. I also belive that as soon as the PS2 dies, that the games will be better. Hate on Madden all you want. You may not buy it, but you will still play it. And if 2K does get a crack at it again, I don’t think they will get it right either.

  32. The worst thing ever done to video games is giving EA sports the monopoly over NFL gaming. It is widely thought that NFL 2K5 (with T.O. on the cover) was one of the best football games ever. Given another year it was going to surpass Madden and EA knew it. The following year EA bought the exclusive rights to NFL and it’s teams and players basically killing anybody’s chances of bumping Madden off of its perch.

    This isn’t the first time EAhas stood pat adding as few features as possible and was bumped. I believe it was NFL Gameday 98 that was released and EA didn’t even release a game that year. Most people buy Madden because they don’t have any other choice, now. They don’t like it. They know that they are basically playing the same game as the year before, but they are sheep.

  33. One more thing, sometimes there are changes that don’t need to be made. I like the games as realistic as possible. I take the time to change players who aren’t QB’s or kickers from wearing certain numbers or changing a name to fit a name change. Now, on Madden 2009 I can’t do that. I can’t make changes to other players facemasks, hairstyle, uniforms, numbers or anything. San Diego has an offensive lineman #94. Phil Loadholt is a White guy. Eric Berry has long hair. All of these are changes that I used to be able to make on previous Madden games that now I am unable.

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