EA Settles Lawsuit Over NCAA Video Game, Ends Franchise – Now What?
By Carissa Scott
Electronic Arts has released many great titles over the years that have raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in sales for the company. As you have heard by now they’ve pulled the plug on one of their principal cash cows, the annual NCAA football game, after recently settling several lawsuits filed by former NCAA athletes who charged that their likenesses were used in the video game without compensation. How has this lawsuit come to affect the fate of one of the major title powerhouses of the video game industry?
Money And Students
USA Today reported that NCAA Football 2012 sold no less than 700,000 copies and smashed every sales record. Practically anyone with a passing interest in NCAA or professional sports understands the ongoing controversy over paying students for their participation in college sports, a billion dollar enterprise. Newsday reported that the NCAA has continued their stance of refusing to pay student athletes a single cent (other than school-related expenses like tuition and housing), calling it an “absurdity.” At the same time, schools throw millions of dollars into football programs and pay top dollar for coaches and trainers in order to recoup the money through national exposure, alumni donations and future commitments.
Video Games And Ownership
If NCAA players cannot be compensated for the time they spend on the field or track or court, can they be paid for their digital appearance in a video game? The case between EA and former NCAA players has raged for four years, focusing on the question of whether or not college athletes’ likenesses in sports video games demands compensation. EA settled the lawsuit last month for an undisclosed amount in federal court, suggesting that the risk of taking the case before a jury proved too risky for the video game company’s corporate offices.
With the risk of having to sponsor college athletes for their likeliness (or suffer future lawsuits from said athletes), EA decided to end the NCAA franchise, but in name only. JoyStiq reports that EA signed a three-year deal with the Collegiate Licensing Company in order to produce a college football game, but not one with the NCAA logos and student athlete names. The new title, presumed to be “College Football 2014,” would have the same colleges, colors and stadiums, even if no names appeared on the back of the jersey.
The gaming industry outside of EA may be little affected by the decision, since only EA has put any money into high-profile sports gaming franchises. Yet franchises like NCAA, Madden and FIFA may be dinosaurs in their field. Online games already enjoy a greater profit margin and faster production schedule. What’s more, indie developers like those behind the games at iWin.com have been trending up in popularity, while larger developers have been losing money. Yet with more and more money in the video game development industry flowing toward independent games rather than triple-A blockbusters, a new football game (college or otherwise) may quickly dethrone EA.
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