Creator of first Madden game sues EA for billions

The man who developed the very first Madden videogame more than 20 years ago is now looking to collect back royalties he claims he's owed.

Robin Antonick created his first Madden-inspired football game in the 1980s for the Commodore 64, MS DOS, and Apple II. In 1986, EA offered him a contract that gave it the rights to Antonick's 'Madden code,' and in turn promised him royalty payments on all future games that used it, according to the lawsuit.

He allegedly hasn't received a royalty payment since 1992. Call us crazy, but we wouldn't wait 19 years to speak up and ask for money we were owed from one of the most successful game franchises of all time.

According to Antonick, though, he simply didn't realize his programming was still being used in recent versions of the game.

"Only recently, as a result of publicity surrounding the 20th Anniversary of the 'Madden' videogame did Antonick become aware that Electronic Arts did not independently develop subsequent versions of its Madden NFL software," reads the complaint.

It points to a specific comment from EA founder Trip Hawkins in which he hints, "The current generation of software apparently derived from software developed by Antonick."

Reportedly, Antonick has been discussing the issue with EA behind closed doors for around two years but apparently didn't like their offers.

The suit further accuses, "Electronic Arts decided that it did not want to share profits with him even though he was responsible for the development of virtually all of the ground-breaking technology at the heart of the game."

Antonick is seeking tens of millions of dollars in royalties, as well as disgorgement of all profits from the series, which climbs into the billions.

[Source: Reuters]

Apr 1, 2011


  • kakeface - April 4, 2011 10:49 a.m.

    anyone else thinking activision's been whispering into someones ear?
  • MrDandy - April 3, 2011 10:09 p.m.

    If true, I say pay the man what is owed to the original contract! Though it does seems really unlikely that game code from 8-bit computers could still be present in the current gen games. But on the other hand, maybe it's more to do with algorithms describing the rules of football, AI, or team dynamics, those things could possibly transcend the actual coding of game hardware. I'd love to hear more about the specifics.
  • SadFace - April 3, 2011 11:21 a.m.

    We don't know what the contracts said, it could be that the code has to be recognizable up to a point. We also don't know how long they've been in contact about this, two years with lawyers could mean another ten years without. It's not unheard of for parties to "overlook" a part of a conract because the other side didn't notice just so they can get a little extra. If he's owed he's owed, and if he is I hope they pay up.
  • yonderTheGreat - April 2, 2011 6:39 p.m.

    Looks like some people need lessons in basic coding and royalty concepts. Here's a decent translation. The Madden games use the same engine that they did when this guy created the original game. The jump from 2d to 3d didn't matter. Still the same basic game. Don't believe me? Look at the gamebryo engine. It powers Morrowind, LEGO Universe, Sid Meier's Pirates, and Civ 4. Seriously. Morrowind and Civ 4. *IF* the original contract was royalty-based (as opposed to a flat-fee) then yeah... EA is (not surprisingly) shortchanging him big-time. While I find it a tough thing to believe, it *IS* possible that he simply didn't look at Madden at all after programming it. A lot of people don't give a rat's patooty about sports games. In no small part because, get ready, it's *the*same*friggin*game*every*year* :) Also... the only thing I can find attached to this guy's name is that first Madden game. If he really only programmed *ONE* game then wow... he should win some kind of award for that.
  • mrmorozov987 - April 2, 2011 1:49 p.m.

    This is one of the few cases where someone sues a company for money and actually deserves it, that is, if they're still using his code. They made a contract, and they both have to follow through with it. Also, don't be surprised if his code is still being used 20 years after it was made. After all, Windows 7 does contain code from Windows 95.
  • e1337prodigy - April 2, 2011 10 a.m.

    I'm sure that after many years his original code has changed so much that it is not his anymore. Maybe he deserves royalties up to about 1992 or until it went 3d. after that im pretty sure its not the same code, they certainly not 2d models anymore so how can they still be using the same code.
  • PaulieWaulie - April 2, 2011 7:59 a.m.

    "Electronic Arts decided that it did not want to share profits with him even though he was responsible for the development of virtually all of the ground-breaking technology at the heart of the game." How the frig are they still using the same code from over twenty years ago? That makes no sense whatsoever, does GTA IV use the same code at its heart as the very original GTA? I think not. I think he misinterpreted a quote and saw dollar signs.
  • CurryIsGood - April 2, 2011 6:36 a.m.

    Because of him EA wont have the money to make Red Alert 4...
  • AuthorityFigure - April 2, 2011 5:28 a.m.

    He should of called an Audible years ago.
  • SirManguydude - April 2, 2011 4:44 a.m.

    Based on the information in the article, the whole deal was with the code. If my Xbox 360 is running code that comes from Commodore 64, there is a problem. I vaguely remember that you just ran into players and it autotackled, and you had two buttons for passes.
  • Fuzunga - April 2, 2011 2:48 a.m.

    That's Trip Hawkins III to you!
  • MrSinister - April 2, 2011 2:34 a.m.

    If he put in the work and EA owed him the cash, more power to you Mr Antonick. EA has been milking money from us for years with microtransactions it's thier turn.
  • Deadstitch - April 2, 2011 2:02 a.m.

    I hate John Madden. Thanks, Antonick, for being a super-douche...
  • RomyNine - April 2, 2011 1:34 a.m.

    I think he ought to get what's nowed him. He created the franchise that has helped make EA what it is. Yeay Antonick!!!
  • nadrewod - April 2, 2011 1:28 a.m.

    Honestly, this sounds like what would have happened to the guys at Infinity Ward if they hadn't quit right after a lack of royalty payments for MW2 (and suddenly left their jobs working on the big franchise because the game was being bought away from them, and then didn't call "FOUL" for years simply because they imagined one year was enough time to re-code an entire AAA game, and thus there was not one ounce of their code left in the game).
  • rabidpotatochip - April 2, 2011 1:11 a.m.

    Sounds like one hell of a retirement plan to me.
  • BALLSTOTHEWALLET - April 2, 2011 1:09 a.m.

    OH SHI-
  • madmax21st - April 2, 2011 12:54 a.m.

    Haha very funny guys, I have a calender... oh shit Reuters! Unless....
  • HereComesTheHypeTrainCHOOCHOO - April 2, 2011 12:52 a.m.

    Sounds like the man is due tens of millions of dollars that EA didn't pay out. EA has a habit of not paying out what they owe to people such as retired NFL players that finally got some cash fairly recently for being exploited by EA for many, many years in various Madden games. Fat chance getting access to ALL of the profits from the series. I can't see any judge in the land awarding Mr. Antonick those billions.
  • PessimisticHappyThoughts - April 2, 2011 12:51 a.m.

    Bet the codes all reprogramed next year.

Showing 1-20 of 23 comments

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