$28 Million NFLPA Verdict Reveals Details of EA’s Madden Monopoly

Here at GamePolitics I’ve been complaining (some might say whiningsince 2005 that EA’s exclusive arrangement with the NFL is, at best, a bad deal for gamers.

At worst, it’s a monopoly.

Ultimately, the Federal Trade Commission, looked at the Madden issue in relation to EA’s merger dance with Take-Two Interactive. But, inasmuch as the FTC pre-approved the EA-T2 deal, its regulators apparently came down against the monopoly view.

But that was before secret e-mails from officials of the NFL Players Association were made public in September during a bitter court fight between retired players and the NFLPA. As GamePolitics reported last week, the retirees were ultimately awarded $28 million by a U.S. District Court jury in San Francisco. Three-quarters of that amount was levied as punitive damages. The NFLPA says that it will appeal.

While millions in Madden licensing fees were central to the case, EA itself was not a defendant. Despite that, incriminating e-mails clearly show that EA knew it was "scrambling" the likenesses of retired players on Madden’s classic NFL teams. More relevant to the monopoly issue, however, is an e-mail which demonstrates that the NFLPA was complicit in helping EA maintain its status as the sole publisher of a pro football game. A February, 2007 e-mail from NFLPA executive Clay Walker to an NFLPA attorney makes this quite plain:

I was able to forge this deal with the [Pro Football Hall of Fame] that provides them with 400K per year (which is significantly below market rate) in exchange for the HOF player rights. EA owes me a huge favor because of that threat was enough to persuade Take Two to back off its plans, leaving EA as the only professional football videogame manufacturer out there.


…The per player price for most of these guys was tens of thousands of dollars less than what they were guaranteed by Take Two Interactive so it’s a real coup that we were able to pull this off so cheaply. You have to remember that EA’s total cost is only $200,000 per year. We know that Take Two offered six figure deals to several former NFL players so the total cost is millions below market prices…

Will the revelation that the NFLPA was actively assisting EA by keeping Take-Two on the sidelines raise any red flags at the Federal Trade Commission? Will FTC regulators revisit the Madden issue?

That remains to be seen. If you’re asking yourself, "why is this issue important to gamers?" There are several very good reasons; all revolve around the concept of competition:

  • When Take-Two published the NFL2K series, EA had competition.
  • Competition forces companies to put out a better product.
  • Some gamers even preferred NFL2K to Madden.
  • Without an NFL license, Take-Two could not compete with Madden and gave up on pro football.
  • After EA’s exclusive deal killed NFL2K, EA’s raised the price of its next version of Madden by $20.
  • The price has remained at a higher rate ever since.

Finally, we should point out that a class-action lawsuit, Pecover vs. Electronic Arts, is currently working its way through U.S. District Court in California. Pecover essentially argues that game consumers were screwed by EA’s Madden monopoly.

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  1. cbtaylo says:

    EA should be ashamed of themselves for being a chump and a punk by buying out the license when they saw their sales get sliced by a superior NFL2K5 game.  

    I even read on EA’s blog site for Madden 2010 that the Lead Designer Ian Cummings has been studying NFL 2K5  so no one else can compare it to Madden anymore….now isnt that sad that you are comparing a game that is nearly 5 yrs old to your next gen title?   

    I really wish 2K had a shot at making a NFL licensed game, I think they really made a mistake with 2K8 All Pro football, bad marketing, old engine….they did not help their cause to stay into making football games for true fans of real football.    I am sure they will shine if given a chance to make a next gen version, too bad EA has a monopoly on the NFL and college lineup.

  2. diziizle says:

    I agree it’s a bad deal for gamers, but hardly a monopoly. That’s like saying DC Comics has a monopoly on Batman and they don’t have the right to give exclusive licenses. Other companies can make football games all day, just like other companies can make super hero games all day, just not NFL and Batman games.sinema izle
    dizi izle
    film izle

  3. ecco6t9 says:

    Plus I find it comical that their is a clear double standard in the industry.

    EA raises the price of Madden back up and people who hate EA cry foul.

    Meanwhile Take 2K Games  raised the price of their other sports games back up and they get a free pass since they "needed to make up losses…right?"


    Fact is Take 2 signed away the NFL when they devalued the leagues’ name to bargin bin status or at least that is how the NFL sees it. We all know that the NFL is crazy and you really shouldn’t piss off crazy.

  4. Keebler says:


    Please people, do your homework.  

    The NFL shopped the exclusive deal to the various publishers (this is common knowledge).  This was not initiated by EA (or any publisher for that matter).  The simple answer is that EA just happened to be the winner of the exclusive deal.  It was the NFL’s idea to go exclusive.

    Frankly, I think EA does a great job with Madden and is very respectful of the NFL license and manages to keep new gameplay coming with every update.  That’s not an easy thing to do with a product that needs to come out on time every year.


  5. KremlinDusk says:

    Because the economy was rolling in the 1930’s… right?

    This isn’t a depression.  It’s a resession.  Calling it a depression is being overdramatic.

  6. GTCv Deimos says:

    If you’re looking for a less NFL-Centric football game, you might want to check out Midway’s "Blitz" series.

  7. thefremen says:

     Just think if the FTC actually did its job we wouldn’t have to bail out every failing company or face the worst depression the country has ever seen. 

  8. E. Zachary Knight says:

    Well, that sucks. So much for quality products. Took a look at EA Sports website as well as the AFL site and neither site lists a game beyond 2006 nor for a current system.

    Take that back. There was one for 2007 but EA does not list it.

    E. Zachary Knight
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  9. insanejedi says:

    Are you selecting these games properly? You shoulden’t exclude games that EA published because that’s what EA does, their the publisher. They also oversee all the Rock Band peripheral troubles and marketing for the game, so it’s not like they are completly excluded from involvement in the game side. I dunno what you selected and deselected but Ubisoft should be way lower on the score board than any of those. Did you select No More Heroes from the batch of Ubisoft even though they only published it? What about games like Mass Effect on EA’s side? EA technically owns Bioware so it’s effectively like an EA LA or EA Redwood. And I highly doubt that EA is that bad.

    So far in this year alone, they have released Burnout Paradise, Mirrors Edge, NHL 09 which I’m suprised people actually care about that brand even though EA’s games for that are scored wayyy higher than the 2K ones. Rock Band 2, Dead Space, Bad Company, Red Alert 3, Spore (Critcally aclaimed dispite DRM). If you also include all the games EA simply publishes, Crysis, Left 4 Dead, and so on. That should rocket the ranking of EA as one of the best publishers in terms of quality of games.

    You obviously have some axe to grind with EA that your somehow applying this double standard on them of "Oh well they only published this." or I’m assuming "DICE/Bioware/Pandemic/Criterion isin’t really a part of EA (dispite the fact they are owned by them.)", And I assume your also not looking at the very crappy side of Ubisoft releasing their casual games of the "z" franchises such as Catz, and Dogz, and the "imagine" series of Imagine Babyz.

    And the date selection from 2000 to 2008? 8 Years is two generations in this industry which is a lot of time, and ever since 2006 EA has drimatically changed over the course of that time frame. A fair count should be from when the Xbox 360 launched, to today.


  10. DeepThorn says:

    True…  Good old basketball…  still not as fun to play as football video game wise for me…  I miss the NES hockey game though…

    Yeah, I took GameSpot, IGN and other game rating websites and averaged them all for every other year since 2000.  Compared Nintendo, EA, Ubisoft, Blizzard, Activision (i was shocked they did better than EA), and others.

    Blizzard by far beat everyone with an average rating of like 9.2 if I remember right for overall average.  EA’s average rating has gone down every other year counting every single game they made for those years, and Blizzard is the only one of those to throw out almost every project that looked even close to being lame or have a below good score.

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  11. LaxGamer34 says:

    wasnt exactly speaking of average ratings, just the quality of the games and their treatment of customers as evil little sh!ts.

    At least T2 has baseball, and no one owns the soul rights to NHL or NCAA basketball….yet

  12. finaleve says:

    I only bought 1 madden game and that was because I was bored that summer…and to this day I regret getting it because…it sucks.

    I don’t hate EA, but I really dislike their business practices.  The way they are handling the NFL franchise in games is beyond disgusting.  I’m not a big football fan (can’t fully watch a game) nor am I a fan of playing the games they are on (Except NFL Blitz…that got me into football), but there really needs to be competition.  I’m amazed that the NFL didn’t try to get more money by selling their rights to various industry heads…they could earn a ton more money that way instead of having EA mishandle the NFL in terms of gaming.

  13. konrad_arflane says:

    I need to understand this: Clay Walker’s email sounds like he thinks he’s achieved something positive by brokering this deal between EA and the Hall of Fame. Is this because he assumes EA will cut the NFLPA a better deal because he helped them, or because there’s more money left over current players since they got the veteran players’ rights cheaper? If so, he’s a real scumbag. I really wouldn’t want to be in a union that completely ignored retiree benefits – and I don’t plan to retire when I’m thirty (indeed, that would be difficult, as I’m pushing thirty-two…).

  14. JJPasadena says:

    I know I’m not adding anything too deep to this conversation (which is a great thread btw), but I always found it creepy the way EA handled the whole idea of having actual competition back in 2004.

  15. BearDogg-X says:

    Agreed. Although I find the officiating is ten times worse in the college level, especially in the Southeastern Conference, and especially since they started doing replay reviews(which absolutely sucks since you can tell that half the time the replay official doesn’t review the play as well as he should, the NFL’s replay system is better in that the referee himself can look at the monitor).

    There was another instance yesterday during the Saints-Chiefs game where it appeared that Chiefs RB Larry Johnson got halfway across the goal line, but the refs still ruled him short and the Chiefs challenged and the ruling was upheld.

    Geaux Saints, Geaux Tigers, Geaux Hornets, Jack Thompson can geaux chase a chupacabra.

    Proud supporter of the New Orleans Saints, LSU, 1st Amendment; Real American; Hound of Justice; Even through the darkest days, this fire burns always

    Saints(3-4), LSU(7-0)

  16. DeepThorn says:

    Very find points, especially about bad officiating.  I do see that they are trying hard, but it really does seem like they make really bad calls.  They just need to put cameras in better places specifically for officiating.  When we can not see if they guy crossed the line or not because of the angle, and it is debatable, then that means a camera was not in the right place. 

    I rather judgments be placed on facts, not possible optical illusions…  pissing off players and fans.  If you leave no doubt about what happened, then people dont get pissed off.

    Granted, there is no good solution other than having over 100 cameras around for when someone may not have had control of the ball and other like situations, but along the side lines is a start.

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  17. TJLK says:

    I’m patiently waiting for the beta to open for Play Hard Sport’s Online Football game.  I don’t need it to be pro, i just want it to be fun.

    Another game I’ve been eyeballing for a while is BackBreaker.  It looks impressive and from what I’ve read it is a lot different than other football games.

    Without the ability to actually get the NFL brand on the game it might suffer in sales but it shouldn’t effect how fun the game is.  One thing I don’t understand is why the NFL doesn’t set up a non-exclusive licesning package so multiple companies can use their name.  The National Football League is a premium name and they want the products with their brand on it to be quality.  All of their products with the exception of one have always been made well and were well worth the price.  However, Madden is not a "quality" product at all.  It is obvious that EA doesn’t care that much.  If the game isn’t on a next gen console it is almost worthless, they didn’t even bother setting collision on the stadium on the ps2 version.  I mean a blocking volume could have worked just as easily if not more easily than setting collision…  It is strait up laziness and failure to deliver a quality product.  The NFL can’t be happy with the products EA is delivering.  How could they be?

    NFL has been making a lot of questionable choices in recent years.  The EA thing sucked but there are actual problems with the league itself this year.  They are going fine crazy for anyone that lays a big hit on another player.  Officiating gets worse every single year and if anyone employeed by the NFL speaks against it they get fined.  Its obvious to the fans and everyone seems to feel the same way.  If you watch NFL football every week then you’ve probably had discussions on whats wrong with the way the league is being run numerous times.

    The problems I’m most concerned with in terms of the NFL are:

    1. Bad design of rules.  They are too sympathetic to players that don’t want to get hit, they are obsessed with safety and their overtime rules are lame.  Get rid of Sudden Death already and allow the QB to get hit every now and then without throwing a flag.  If you think you’re players are being put too much at risk watch a game of rugby and tell me those guys aren’t INSANE.(Rugby is awesome btw)

    2. Excessive fines for LEGAL hits.  It happens frequently, players don’t even know how they should tackle anymore.  Clearly it is a problem with the rules on what is a legal hit and how its being presented to the players.

    3. Poor officiating and the players inability to speak against it.  The officials train hard and I do think they try.  But that being said it seems like their performance drops every single year.  At this point I don’t care how hard they try when it isn’t gametime, if they fail to perform then it is a serious issue.  How can you screw up a call after a booth review?  It happened yesterday at the end of the Steelers-Chargers game and while it didn’t exactly matter its nice to have some form of trust in the officials.

    4. Offseason.  For the fan, the EA monopoly sucks most during the offseason.  I used to have NFL Europa to keep me entertained and relatively satisfied durring the offseason  NFL Europa is gone and if I want to enjoy NFL football I have to pay for the NFL network or get Madden.  I like the NFL network but I miss it being standard on Comcast.  Only reason I have Madden is because a friend gave it to me after he got a free copy at a convention.  But really the EA thing is something that aggrivates me more durring the offseason when I don’t have games to watch.

  18. Papa Shango says:

     That’s not a very good example though. Batman was created for the comic book publisher. The NFL would exist with or without video games being made about it. The fact is the fans of the teams are what sells the majority of the games. Not just that it’s a football game. When you got two choices between a game with your favorite team or a game full of made up teams and players most people will choose the one with their team. 


    I still have to say that NFL 2k5 was one of the best football games I’ve played.

  19. Kojiro says:

    I agree it’s a bad deal for gamers, but hardly a monopoly.  That’s like saying DC Comics has a monopoly on Batman and they don’t have the right to give exclusive licenses.  Other companies can make football games all day, just like other companies can make super hero games all day, just not NFL and Batman games.

    BTW – Mutant League FTW!

  20. DeepThorn says:

    If you compare average game ratings, you are absolutely correct with the worst game company today remark.

    Just look at the NASCAR game, the game released in 2007 was the first time EA game even close to the same quality of game made by Seira back in 2003, the game released in 2008 was the first time it was actually on full par, other than game quality. (graphics and programming is one thing, but actually quality is a whole other story…)

    So they are 5 years behind with that game at least, and still not better than their competitors.  For 2K their version was better in some ways and worst in some ways.  EA still screwed them out of the licence.

    I think that they should be allowed to own one licence in one sports catagory period.  So if they own NFL, they can not own NCAA, if they own the NASCAR Cup series, IRL, or other professional racing series, they can not own soul rights to lower level, if they own the rights to world soccer games, they can not own the rights to college soccer games…  If athelets can trade between the sports using the same exact skills and the rules are at least 50% the same, then it is part of the same group…

    Still, it would suck for the consumers, but give other developers the ability to compete on some level.

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  21. LaxGamer34 says:

    Knight, I think EA already licensed the AFL and came out with a game (never played it, dont think it did well).

    Seriously, it took them this long to realize EA has a monopoly on most of the sports-game market? I was one of the many gamers who thought NFL2K5 was superior to Madden 05 (and in some ways its next games) and when I read in OXM that Madden got an exclusive license with NFL I was disgusted at how low they stooped just to cut out competition.

    EA, not just EA Sports, is the worst game company today

  22. Zen says:

    Because, sadly, EA got the rights to AFL as well.  They have grabbed just about every version (college included I believe) of football just to keep any and all competition away.  Real fair huh.

    Jeremy Powers aka Zen
    Panama City, Fl.

  23. E. Zachary Knight says:

    You know. I don’t care one flip about NFL football. I just want to play a good football game. So why don’t companies make football games that have nothing to do with the NFL? Because they like to compare them to Madden sales. If your football game does not have that license or cannot generate sales on par with Madden, it is scrapped.

    What happend to Mutant League and other such games? (yes I know Mutant League was an EA game). Why doesn’t someone license AFL (Arena Football League)?

    I just want to play a good Football Game.

    E. Zachary Knight
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  24. Zevorick says:

    This will take care of itself if the FTC won’t. As they continue their shady dealings and piss poor gaming quality, eventually people will cry out for alternatives and they will receive them. In the mean time, let the hammer fall on them!

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