Bad news for fans wanting an NFL alternative to Madden NFL in the next couple of years. Because of the looming lockout by NFL owners, EA Sports requested relief from its lucrative licensing deal for the 2011-2012 season. Rather than providing such relief or releasing EA Sports outright from their contract, the NFL restructured EA Sports’ obligations for the upcoming year in exchange for an extension of the exclusivity contract through 2013.
While this deal will allow EA Sports to continue to use the team names, colors, logos, and stadiums for an additional year, it does not commit the NFL players to another year. That deal was brokered separately between the NFL Player’s Association and EA and is still set to expire in 2012. If a new deal is not reached, EA could be prevented from using the players’ names and likeness in Madden NFL 13.
Complicating matters, the NFLPA has stated that it could decertify as a union if the NFL owners attempt a lockout. This would prevent EA Sports from negotiating a similar extension with the NFLPA as it would cease to control the licensing rights for the players, which would revert to each player. Negotiating individual deals would be an arduous and expensive process and one that EA probably would not pursue. Because the NFLPA rakes in between $30 to $40 million a year for its members, however, we suspect that a similar extension will happen prior to any decertification attempt.
The exclusive deal has squashed any real competition for Madden NFL since it went into effect. Fans of the NFL 2K series will certainly remember that, in 2005, EA Sports bought exclusivity rights from the NFL and NFLPA for five years in order to eliminate the competition. This deal worked out so well for the parties that they later extended until 2012. However, many NFL video game fans felt that the lack of competition led to stagnation in the Madden NFL series and were looking forward to a time where other viable options would be available. Attempts at non-NFL and NCAA games, such as Backbreaker and All Pro Football 2K8, have failed to capture the hearts of football gamers.
Despite some of the complaints about the Madden NFL series since the exclusive deal went into effect, the series still continues to be a major money maker for EA Sports. Last year, Madden NFL 11 shipped more than 5 million units worldwide and was EA Sports’ best-selling game after FIFA 11. Clearly, there is still a lot of affection for this long running franchise.
Are you disheartened by this deal? Or is the Madden NFL series the only football game for you?
Source: Sports Business Journal