The recent class action lawsuit in which retired NFL players won a $28 million judgment from the National Football League Players Association continues to yield a treasure trove of information concerning the inner workings of EA’s best-selling Madden franchise.
For example, transcripts of court testimony which were unsealed this week by the U.S. District Court in San Francisco show that NFL star Brett Favre’s decision to retire from the Green Bay Packers in early 2008 almost got him dropped from the cover of Madden 2009.
EA exec Joel Linzner, who was called as a witness at the NFLPA trial, testfied about the dilemma which Favre’s on again-off again retirement caused for EA:
Q: …Madden NFL Game. And, in fact, that’s been a very successful game for EA, correct?
JL: Yes, over 20 years.
Q: 20 years. In fact, the 2009 version was the 20th anniversary edition, right?
JL: It’s the 20th of the Madden NFL series, that’s correct.
Q: Right. And you chose to put on the cover of that a retired player at the time, right?
JL: Uhm, well, Brett Favre at the time we decided to put him on the cover was not retired, had not announced his retirement. He subsequently announced his retirement. We thought about replacing him to have an active player. But the logistics of making the packages are kind of complicated, and we decided to stay with Brett Favre. And I think as most people subsequently know, he revoked his retirement and is currently an active player with the New York Jets.
Linzner also testified about EA’s deal with Madden 2004 cover athlete Michael Vick, who was later arrested and jailed for animal cruelty. Hit the jump for more official testimony about Madden cover athletes Vick and Donovan McNabb.
Q. Could you show the jury what it is? That’s actually the Madden Game, right, in the package it comes in the store?
JL: Well… This is one version of Madden NFL 2004 for the PlayStation 2 as resold probably at GameStop on a used basis for 99 cents. It didn’t sell for 99 cents when we offered it initially.
Q. …I’m not going to get into how much it costs. It doesn’t matter to me. All I want to do is focus on this. If you look on the cover of this Madden game… That’s Michael Vick, right?
JL: This is Michael Vick, and at this time he was an active NFL player.
Q: Right. He subsequently had some trouble with the law, and he’s in custody, right?
Mr. Feher: Objection, your honor. That’s not relevant.
Mr. Hummel: You’re right. I’ll withdraw it… But he is not currently an active NFL player… But at the time he was, right?
JL: That’s correct.
Q: Okay. And did you have to obtain a separate agreement with Michael Vick to put him on the cover?
JL: We obtained a separate agreement with Michael Vick and paid him incremental amounts for two things… to be on the cover… and to perform services for us in connection with the launch of the game, the TV commercial, etc…. we have to enter into a separate agreement as we did unfortunately with Michael Vick, who had some problems subsequently… That’s separate from the group license that we signed with Players, Inc. to have all of the players in the video game… It’s frequently called a "highlight agreement…"
Q: All right. So this is a situation where he – Mr. Vick – signed a separate agreement…
JL: We have somebody on staff at EA… who frequently makes contacts to find a player and his agent who are interested in being on the cover and is willing to perform the P.R. services that we want and be in the TV commercials and is familiar with the game… The money that we paid Michael Vick under his highlight agreement, to the best of my knowledge, is not shared with the other 1,400 – 1,500 active players…
Q: This was $4.99 used. But this is the Madden 06 game that also has an active player on the cover, Donovan McNabb, right?
JL: Donovan McNabb was and remains an active NFL player.
Q: And there was a highlight agreement with Donovan McNabb, right? …You have a highlight agreement with Donovan McNabb?
JL: Well, we did for Madden NFL 06… He was in a TV commercial…