A U.S. District Court Judge in San Francisco has ruled that monopoly claims filed against Electronic Arts by a pair of Madden buyers may continue.
EA had previously requested that Judge Vaughn Walker dismiss claims by Geoffrey Pecover and Jeffrey Lawrence. The two Madden buyers, serving as named plaintiffs in the class-action suit, alleged that by eliminating competition for NFL-licensed games EA had acted in a monopolistic fashion and unjustly enriched itself at the expense of consumers. On Friday Judge Walker issued a ruling denying EA’s motion. The Judge did, however, rule that only claims in California and Washington, D.C. would go forward since that is where the two named plaintiffs in the case reside.
Significantly, in turning down EA’s request to dismiss, Judge Walker wrote that "interactive video football software" is a recognizable product market for anti-trust purposes:
As the court understands these allegations, interactive football software will not sell if it does not use the names, logos and other markers of teams that actually compete in the NFL; there is, in effect, no market for interactive football software in a virtual or fictitious setting. If true —— as the court must at this point accept —— this adequately alleges that there are no substitutes for interactive football software without the markers of actual teams and players.
The suit, essentially following a line of reasoning laid out here on GamePolitics, describes how EA, faced with competition from Take-Two’s excellent NFL 2K5, reduced the price of Madden from $49.99 to $29.99 in order to stay competitive with NFL 2K5, which was aggressively priced at $19.99. However, once the exclusive NFL and NFLPA deals were inked, the unlicensed NFL 2K series was discontinued and EA, facing no competition, jacked the price of Madden back up to $49.99.
DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of Judge Walker’s ruling.