Electronic Arts Buys NFL Exclusivity

Posted on December 20, 2004

Electronic Arts (EA) has cut an exclusive licensing deal with the National Football League and Players Inc. to develop, publish and distribute interactive football games. These five-year agreements give EA the exclusive rights to the NFL teams, stadiums and players for use in its football video games. Both agreements also include exclusive rights for console online features. However, the rights do not include games accessible from the Internet or wireless devices, including cellular phones.

Critics argue that the exclusive deal could curb innovation. Critics are also concerned EA could raise prices on the Madden NFL Football game. EA has already sold more than 42 million copies of the game in its 15 year history.

Michael Pachter, a video game industry analyst from Wedbush Morgan Securities told Newsday, "I'm really curious to see how EA will defend this, but at the end of the day, the consumer has fewer choices, and that's bad."

Gamespot.com reports that Take-Two, which produces a cheaper competitor called NFL 2K that retails at $19.99, said the deal is a "tremendous disservice to the consumers." The move for exclusivity could have a detrimental impact on the NFL and Electronic Arts.

A New York Times story points out that some game developers are already planning anti-NFL type games. The Times writes, "Midway Games has already begun bragging about the N.F.L.-free title it will issue late next year, called Blitz: Playmakers. It is full of things that the N.F.L. would never allow in legally licensed games. A promotional image for the game shows the bloodied knuckles of a player along with scantily clad women and vials of pills and drugs."

That sounds like a football game styled after the success of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

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