Pachter: Economist’s Claims in Madden Monopoly Case Irresponsible

Yesterday’s GamePolitics report detailing a University of Michigan economist’s estimate that EA’s exclusive NFL deal cost Madden buyers as much as $926 million raised a number of eyebrows, including those attached to the forehead of Michael Pachter (left).

In an e-mail exchange with GamePolitics, the Wedbush-Morgan analyst scoffed at the monopoly theory offered by Dr. Jeffrey MacKie-Mason in a filing last week with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. MacKie-Mason was hired as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in a class-action suit filed in 2008 by a pair of gamers who allege that EA exploited its exclusive NFL deal to jack up the price of its popular Madden series.

Here’s what Pachter had to say:

What kind of fool is this U of Michigan economics professor? …Madden (according to NPD) sold 23 million units in 2006 – 2009, not the 30 million that Dr. MacKie-Mason claims… The total retail sales were $1.034 billion, meaning that EA’s cut was around $800 million (retail margin is 20%).  How in the world does [MacKie-Mason] conclude that EA overcharged by more than they generated?

For the four year period, EA’s average retail price was $44. For the period 1995 – 2005 (when either Sega or Take-Two provided [NFL 2K series] competition), EA generated $1.548 billion of sales on 36 million units, for an average price of $43. In other words, WITH competition, the price was $43, and WITHOUT competition, the price was $44.18…

I rarely read anything that gets me so incensed… They may have some odd estimates I’m not aware of, but based on what you printed, they should be embarrassed. You can quote me.

Here’s more: Take-Two discounted [NFL 2K5] to $19.99 to gain market share, and lost their butts in the process. It’s the same as a dollar menu at McDonald’s that is a loss leader in order to gain share, and McDonald’s hopes people buy the high-margin soft drink. There is no "right" among consumers to receive a perpetual discount just because one retailer decides to discount below cost… 

It strikes me as irresponsible that the professor would focus on the NFL exclusive as if there is some god-given right for consumers to have all intellectual property available for exploitation by any business that chooses to do so in the name of competition… 

The ONLY I/P that has ever been licensed to multiple video game parties is team sports.  The NFL, Major League Baseball, FIFA, and NCAA Basketball have all chosen to go the exclusive route for games, similar to the contracts for all movie-based games.

GP: As GamePolitics reported yesterday, MacKie-Mason acknowledges that his analysis is based on incomplete data. In a response filing, attorneys for EA (who were similarly contemptuous of MacKie-Mason’s theory) agreed to furnish available documentation dating back to 2001.

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