EA locks down candidacy for New Evil Empire
January 18, 2005 7:27 PM   Subscribe

EA Plays Hardball Just in case locking up the NFL license wasn't enough...
posted by ga$money (36 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Previous thread about EA's deal with the NFL.

Ga$money, you're right in what you said in the last thread, "Do you really think the suits at EA are going to take this as an opportunity to revolutionize football simulations? I suspect you'll make the best game you're _allowed_ to make." The last great leap that football games made were from raster to vector graphics. Since then, the games have added nothing revolutionary to make, for example, Madden 2005 much different than Madden 2000. I see the process slowing even more in the next five years or even 15.
posted by Arch Stanton at 7:49 PM on January 18, 2005


Although people rarely mention it, the gaming industry shares much with the typical "bad guy" of intellectual property -- the record industry. The publishers like EA (think record labels) have all of the distribution power, the IP ownership, and the case for development deals. The actual artists, game developers, on the other hand, are squeezed to produce products that the publishers demand, and given trickles of money to keep them developing. Hit driven industries are hard to manage, and EA is just the first (and best) to professionalize the way gaming development works, but at the expense, unsurprisingly, of diversity. A familiar pattern, but EA is making it obvious with their efforts to supress other franchises. Its like BMG buying the rights to all "blues" music for the next ten years...
posted by blahblahblah at 8:21 PM on January 18, 2005


Yup. This should disabuse anyone of the notion that hip and edgy new media like games and mobile will behave differently as industries once they get interesting (from a $$$ perspective).

EA's playing with the same toolkit that big companies have in any industry: a big war chest.

It will be interesting to see how other game publishers counter. It won't (I think be with football games).
posted by donovan at 8:34 PM on January 18, 2005


For a brief moment, my tired eyes read it as "EA Plays Handball". Finally, the long-awaited opportunity to virtually pit hall of famers Charlie & Joan Wicker against each other materializes? Sadly, no.
posted by walkathon at 9:23 PM on January 18, 2005


Nope, just corporate consolidation, this time in the gaming realms. It was bound to happen.

I just wish they'd find something better than "EA Sports, Its in the game!"
posted by fenriq at 9:46 PM on January 18, 2005


I'm a faithful Madden player, but I believe with no competition (Really, who wants to play a CFL game?) the designers will feel no pressure to make revolutionary changes.

Soon, EA will be getting more money when their contract with Madden expires.

My prediction, EA hires a hitman to take out Madden.
posted by AMWKE at 9:48 PM on January 18, 2005


This is one of the biggest "fuck you's" I've ever seen in the gaming industry, if not THE biggest.

So let me return the favor. Fuck you EA. You claim the NFL approached your new deal with them. Fine, I can handle that. I seriously doubt ESPN did the same thing, I suspect you went after them. And signing a deal for fifteen years? I could conceivably die before that deal is up and competition returns to this type of game.

And fuck you too, ESPN, for abandoning Sega, Take Two, and Visual Concepts, who tried different things, were consistently entertaining, and were aggressive enough to scare the shit out of EA with their $20 price tags.

Up next: EA attempts hostile takeover of Hell. Satan seriously ponders retiring with a golden flaming parachute.
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:57 PM on January 18, 2005


Just for the record, and I do not mind going on the record, my experience working in the game industry and keeping a casual eye on the happenings since my early days as a game customer is that the story of the game industry is this:

The game industry grew up, looked at the film/music industries, with their backbiting, screwing the artists, royalty fraud, soulless franchise development, and complete and utter contempt of the customer base.

And they said "Wow, that's really inefficient. We can optimize that process."

And damn if they haven't.
posted by jscott at 12:43 AM on January 19, 2005


The most interesting aspect of this is that ESPN really don't seem to be gaining anything, except the license fee. With the EA CEO saying: "we don't anticipating changing anything significantly from what we are currently doing..." it sounds to me as if EA have just done it to block Take 2 Interactive's position in the market.

This is all, good, shrewd business when you look at the bottom line, but gamer's don't really care about how well EA's stock is doing.
posted by Navek Rednam at 12:44 AM on January 19, 2005


Guh, I mean Sega instead of Take 2
posted by Navek Rednam at 12:46 AM on January 19, 2005


Bah, go play some Flatout, and forget about football for a moment.
posted by wah at 1:35 AM on January 19, 2005


The ESPN deal is crazy-long, but if IIRC they only gain the rights to use the ESPN logo and video clips. That's not much of a coup, if you ask me. The NFL deal, on the other hand, is ludicrous.

Out of curiosity, what would stop Sega or their contemporaries just going ahead and doing a kick-ass football game, only renaming everyone like a parody?

So, instead of the New England Patriots, you could play the New England Musketeers; instead of the Dallas Cowboys, it might be the Dallas Horseback Riders. And the players could utilize the same formula: Tim Bedsores for Tom Brady, Payload Mining for Peyton Manning, etc.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:36 AM on January 19, 2005


off-topic: fenriq, I am in a somewhat rural area of China and not long ago when in a class a student had something with the EA Sports logo on it and I casually said it out loud. I was immediately met with at least three students saying in unison, "It's in the game!"
posted by geekyguy at 1:38 AM on January 19, 2005


Real football: EA holds exclusive rights to FIFA, and still can't hold a candle to Konami.
posted by sellout at 2:31 AM on January 19, 2005


I just want them to actually update Madden next year. For all the talk before it came out about how they revolutionized defense this year, the game plays strikingly similar. I'm sure it took them all of a month to code in some new defensive audibles.

But the run-blocking schemes still suck.

All Madden mode is still only difficult because of ludicrous "catch-up" cheats and bonehead defensive plays.

I'm wholly underwhelmed by this year's offering, so I'm glad I waited until Boxing Day to pick it up for $20. I wonder if they'll even bother with innovation now that they have no competition.

Out of curiosity, what would stop Sega or their contemporaries just going ahead and doing a kick-ass football game, only renaming everyone like a parody?

So, instead of the New England Patriots, you could play the New England Musketeers; instead of the Dallas Cowboys, it might be the Dallas Horseback Riders. And the players could utilize the same formula: Tim Bedsores for Tom Brady, Payload Mining for Peyton Manning, etc.


Nothing would stop them, but most people wouldn't be interested in purchasing the game. Personally, I'd like to see this done for PC and then have someone create a hack to build in actual rosters. Hell, the company could probably do it and just leak it out on the net. I'd support that (assuming the game didn't suck).
posted by The God Complex at 2:36 AM on January 19, 2005



off-topic: fenriq, I am in a somewhat rural area of China and not long ago when in a class a student had something with the EA Sports logo on it and I casually said it out loud. I was immediately met with at least three students saying in unison, "It's in the game!"


That's both funny and frightening.
posted by The God Complex at 2:36 AM on January 19, 2005


KONAMI GO KONAMI GO

oh, and fuck EA, too -- by the way, soccer is not pinball, guys, the Winning Eleven series kicks your ass more and more
posted by matteo at 4:32 AM on January 19, 2005


but most people wouldn't be interested in purchasing the game.

A lot of people on the Fark message board on this topic expressed that the EA game was vastly inferior to the Sega version, yet it cost twice the price. I don't know how a parody version would translate in sales, but providing you can easily figure out what the subject of the parody is, it wouldn't hinder it too much for the consumer. At the very least, if it did reasonably well, they could make a good argument to the NFL the next time 'round. I dunno... just a thought.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:20 AM on January 19, 2005


I would create a game that featured over the top violence, excessive celebrations, fans getting in fights, and cheerleaders who stripped naked. who gives a rats ass if I've got real teams and real player names.

If it's sick and in my head, it's in the game.
posted by hpsell at 6:33 AM on January 19, 2005


Even though I'm most directly interested in EA's take over of everything to do with football (in case you hadn't heard, they also signed an exclusive with the Arena Football League), the rest of the article really scares me. With EA trying to buy in or buy up competition across the board, it's pretty clear they don't give two shits about game innovation or free market competition. Inside the developers community, EA has long been known as a robot-like assembly line/workhouse that somehow has stripped any enjoyment out of game development. Now they want to make all other studios the same way. Fuck you, EA.

From a longer-range perspective, it will be interesting to see how this all bears out. The music and film industries have gone through similar consolidations and revamps, where MBA-types take over the companies made by industry pioneers and make them more efficient and simultaneously more conservative. The inevitable outcome, repeated at least four times throughout film history that I can think of, is that consumers get sick of cookie-cutter product and a market for smaller, more interesting indepent or foreign-made products emerges. Two good examples of this already happening are _Katamari Damacy_ and _Alien Hominid_.
posted by ga$money at 6:51 AM on January 19, 2005


Sega didn't have the ESPN license when they first came out with NFL2K and such on the Dreamcast, and it didn't hurt the game.

The NFL license is a much bigger problem.
posted by smackfu at 6:55 AM on January 19, 2005


here's and interesting article with a marketroid

It's probably spin control, but it seems like both the NFL and ESPN came looking for an exclusive license. quoth the link:

"ESPN approached us a few weeks ago and we thought about it, and most importantly, it really worked on a customer level."

"...much like the NFL was an open bid. If we had lost that bid, you'd be writing a story about how it's the death of EA Sports and Madden is gone after 15 years. I read the boards and see the posts people make about how aggressive we are, but this is competition."

Also, who here really thinks that the NFL and ESPN want SEGA devaluing their product by offering it for less than 50% of the competition? These are strong brands and Sega wasn't making them any stronger. Sure the consumer wins, but it's important to remember that this wasn't a one sided deal. EA didn't go to the ESPN and the NFL's house and hold a gun to it's kids heads to get them to do this. This was a mutually beneficial agreement - Sega undercut itself out of existence.
posted by the theory of revolution at 7:04 AM on January 19, 2005


I think it's interesting that EA signed such a long deal with ESPN. ESPN has only been around for 25 years and EA for much less than that. In the gaming industry, an industry that has yet to mature, 15 years represents three generations of technology. Think how far things have come since 1990.

The only way someone will be able to compete with EA is if a major corporation backs a football game, be it Sony, Microsoft, or some other multi-billion dollar business. In the software business and especially the sports software business, EA is the big dog now, there is no second place, and if there is going to be any competition then it has to come from some major outside source.
posted by Arch Stanton at 7:19 AM on January 19, 2005


arch stantion. Your white knight may have arrived
posted by the theory of revolution at 7:27 AM on January 19, 2005


I'd love to see an Alternate Football League game ala the parody stuff mentioned above. I think there's a chance for some real branding (ala Mario or SubZero) with some virtual sports heroes/teams.

As the consoles evolve, I'm looking forward to more internet and wireless play. Imagine a team that you could load into your DS/PSP that, when you come in contact with another loaded system, quickly plays each other causing your team stats to improve. Imagine an online draft system where at the first of every month certain star players are released online where they can be bid on for cash/points/whatever (hopefully just points!) and players you develop can also be traded. Players could have a limited lifespan, requiring folks to come online to develop new ones. It'd be a MMOFL!

Now, will EA ever do this? Unlikely. With no competition, there's no reason for them to develop anything new. The hope comes down to the console designers with inhouse programmers to build this into the next gen systems. Xbox has the online play skills, Nintendo has the system integration skills, and Sony has the bankroll. So the only thing that can smush EA's Empire is another one.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:57 AM on January 19, 2005


Ummm, this isn't going to stop people making Football games, you know.

It's just they won't be able to use popular team names or popular player names. If you refuse to buy a game because it doesn't have a stupid name in it you like/dislike, then you *deserve* to buy a crummy game at an outrageous price because you're a moron. It's things like this that ensure in the USA that a fool and his money are soon parted.

Way to go EA!
posted by shepd at 7:58 AM on January 19, 2005


shepd, I'm far more upset over ESPN jumping ship to be honest. The smooth way ESPN's broadcast qualities were merged into the NFL 2K series made the game a lot more fun, and believable--from an entertainment standpoint as well as a sports-simulation point. I'm going to miss Boomer screaming "Marshall Marshall Marshall Faulk!" and other inanities.

If Sega, VC, and Take 2 bounce back and come up with something as terrific in a NFL-less, ESPN-less game in response to these moves, I will give them all my money. Otherwise, it's going to World of Warcraft and thank God Blizzard isn't owned by EA. Yet. It would put a terrible crimp in my moral standards. What? I have standards. They may be low. But I have them!
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:08 AM on January 19, 2005


Well, couldn't Sega or whomever just focus on making a college football game?

I'm a long-time Madden fan - hell, since the Sega Genesis - and I too was completely underwhelmed by this year's version; it's so damned buggy, and the whole newspaper-radio-email thing does nothing for me.
posted by kgasmart at 8:21 AM on January 19, 2005


I've never been so happy to suck at sports video games.

As crappy as EA is (for cranking out non-upgrades that rely only on player stat changes from year to year), the NFL is just as horrible. They were the ones who initiated the exclusivity agreement.
posted by mkultra at 8:42 AM on January 19, 2005


If you refuse to buy a game because it doesn't have a stupid name in it you like/dislike, then you *deserve* to buy a crummy game at an outrageous price because you're a moron.

I disagree, having seen the ardent loyalty gamers have to favorite teams when playing against each other. Kids (and I suppose adults) like to be in control of their superheros; just look at the popularity of fantasy sports leagues.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:57 AM on January 19, 2005


*insert Jamie Lee Curtis scream*

The theory of evolution, if Murdoch is the white knight, then I fear the black knight even more.
posted by Arch Stanton at 9:08 AM on January 19, 2005


geekyguy, I believe it, its got great mindshare but the slogan just bothers me because its obviously false. But kind of scary in how well its penetrated even far, far overseas markets.

Just like shouting "Tastes great" on a foreign beach and having someone shout back, "Less filling".
posted by fenriq at 9:24 AM on January 19, 2005


Even BEFORE this deal Disney was getting a sweet deal. Madden used the ABC graphics and talent. NFL2k5 used ESPN graphics and talent.

They win no matter who wins.

I disagree with those who say the game hasn't improved much lately. The graphics become a bit more refined each year and the game a bit more realistic. They also add a few new moves, features, etc each year.

Don't believe me? Go try playing Madden 2002 for a couple hours. See how much fun it is? Probably not much at all.
posted by b_thinky at 9:51 AM on January 19, 2005


Oh, btw, Someone definitely is working on a violence and sex drenched football parody game, and in fact they put out a press release saying that the lack of an NFL license will let them do whatever the hell they want. I believe it was Midway, who's working on an update to NFL Blitz.

With regards to using fake names in sports games, that was basically the norm for PC gaming until very recently. I used to read a lot of pc gaming magazines 5 or so years ago, and pretty much nobody could afford the nfl license. So, they made it easy for individual players to patch the player and team database, and within days someone had a full patch set for the current league. The best part was that you could update it year after year, so you didnt have to buy a new game each year. I can't find any links with a quick search, but I know they were around :)
posted by JZig at 10:49 AM on January 19, 2005



I disagree with those who say the game hasn't improved much lately. The graphics become a bit more refined each year and the game a bit more realistic. They also add a few new moves, features, etc each year.


They add minimal improvements for a market price of $50+. They only update the graphics engine every three or four years. The AI and pathing updates are abhorrent, usually, and very obvious flaws in the game design persist for years on end.

The changes they make are the kind of thing you normally get in a patch for a game, not something you pay $50 for. Obviously the cycle for sports games is short enough that you can't rehaul the game every year, but I think every two years wouldn't be too much to expect. Or even a more realistic sim experience when playing, not easily exploited flaws in defensive AI and the like.
posted by The God Complex at 3:10 PM on January 19, 2005


JZig's got it right. All the game makers have to do is make the game semi-editable and a quick patch will transform everything back to the trademarked standards.

Too bad sports games on the PC usually suck ass compared to the console versions. Perhaps there will be a bit more user-configuration available for the next few generations of consoles.
posted by wah at 3:50 PM on January 19, 2005


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