Since 2005, anyone wanting to make a video game version of American football has had to do without the real stadiums, teams, and players that make EAs. Madden NFL And NCAA football series so authentic. But EA would lose at least half of its iron grip on the American football video game market as a result of a proposed settlement plan in a class action lawsuit first filed more than four years ago.
Under the terms of the settlement, which has yet to be approved by the court after it was filed last week, EA would not renew its current exclusive agreement with the NCAA when it expires in 2014, and for at least five years after that. That would open the door to truly accurate, competitive college football titles for the first time since Sega’s NCAA College Football 2K3 (EA would also agree to give up its exclusive license to make Arena Football League video games in 2014, but really, how many people will rush to make arena football video games?).
The proposed settlement is also interesting for providing a precise estimate of how much EA’s anti-competitive practices have cost gamers over the years. Consumers who purchased an EA-produced football game starting in 2005 would qualify for $6.79 per GameCube, PS2 or Xbox title and $1.95 per Wii, Xbox 360 or PS3 title.
But that might actually be understating how much EA’s iron grip on the football games market has affected competitive pricing. In 2004, Sega was well regarded NFL 2K5 made waves by launching at $19.99, undercutting Madden 2005 more traditional price of $49.99. EA lowered the price of its game to $29.95 before signing the exclusive NFL license later that year, reverting to the standard price of $49.99 for Madden 2006 the following year.
EA could keep the exclusive NFL license in the proposed settlement, meaning the Madden series would go on to be one of the top-selling games of any year and a major cash cow for EA. But class action lawyers seem pleased with the outcome.
“After more than four years of hard-fought litigation, we have reached a settlement that we strongly believe is fair to consumers,” Hagens Berman attorney and managing partner Steve Berman said in a statement. “We look forward to moving this process forward and asking the court to approve this settlement, which we believe is in the best interest of the class.”
This case is separate from another class action lawsuit filed by former NCAA student athletes seeking compensation for the use of their names and likenesses in EA games. Retired NFL players previously won $28 million in a lawsuit over alleged collusion between EA and the NFL Players Association.