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EA faces Madden 09 lawsuit from 6,000 NFL players

You know it's going to be a long month when it starts out with 6,000 (former) professional athletes suing you. That's the reality that Electronic Arts is now facing from a group of disgruntled retired NFL players who aren't getting the recognition they feel they deserve.

Tony Davis, a 57-year-old former running back for the Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, thinks there is something fishy about the fact that the only thing EA does when a player is retired from the franchise is strip out the name and change the jersey number. Everything else, including team affiliation and player statistics, remains exactly the same.

Davis's stint with the NFL ended in 1981, long before any video game company had any affiliation to a sports league, but he was included in early Madden titles as part of an extensive collection of historical teams and players. However, Davis, along with thousands of other players, no longer has any name recognition in the Madden series. Specifically, he calls out Madden NFL 09, saying that even though the game makes no reference to his name or jersey number, his likeness is still in there. Indeed, there is a seemingly random character in the game whose in-game stats happen to show that he was in the NFL for the same amount of years as Davis, has an identical height and weight as Davis did while in the league, and has the same ranking as Davis did in previous Madden titles.


Above: Tony Davis then (a spry running back for the 1970s Cincinnati Bengals) and
now (a guy nearing Social Security age)


The lawsuit claims, "Despite EA's 'scrambling' of the retired NFL players' numbers, the games are designed so that consumers of the Madden NFL video game franchise will have no difficulty identifying who the 'historic' players are."

It goes on to say, "EA has earned substantial revenue by creating, marketing, and selling video games featuring the likenesses of retired NFL players."

Now, we're all for everyone getting their fair share, but aren't those statement a bit slanted? Did Madden NFL 09 really sell that well because if you searched really hard through a lot of menus, you could find someone in a Tampa Bay Buccaneer uniform with a random name and random number that someone could trace back to a 1980 football player named Tony Davis? Particularly, note the word "by" up there, which seeks to imply that including the oldsters was the way EA made money off the Madden franchise. If all we gamers wanted was the ability to play as retired players, would the latest Madden really sell several million units every August?


Above: Madded NFL 09 apparently sold well because of all the retired players hidden inside the game. Farve? he had nothing to do with it.

This class-action group of thousands of retired NFL players, all with similar stories to Davis, will win something. The precedent is there, as practically the exact same issue popped up between retired players and the NFL players’ union in 2008, with a favorable outcome for the players. But it will hardly be a windfall. EA will probably make a settlement that the has-been players with a sense of entitlement won't like, and the Madden franchise will continue unharmed.

In the end, the people at EA Sports should get some kind of bonehead award for thinking they could continue to use virtually the same player assets even though they were no longer covered under the game's licensing terms. We get it - as fans, we want those guys in there (for instance, Eric tries to recreate the 1985/86 Bears every year). But EA - you gotta pay 'em for it.

Source: IGN

Aug 02, 2010

14 comments

  • Mclovin2 - August 4, 2010 11:08 a.m.

    All I gotta say is Super Bowl Shuffle.
  • pin316 - August 3, 2010 12:31 p.m.

    @JohnnyMaverik I think there's a bit of a difference in the situations...using PES as an example, although the current situation is the same (players in-game who are obviously a take on real-life counterparts with dif names), Konami have never had the licenses for those players, however, and so the players stand nothing to lose. EA, on the other hand, have used these same player likenesses in the past with full details, which implies they paid a license fee for them. I could be wrong, but i think this lawsuit is based on the fact that they have continued to use the same character profiles, but have just changed the names to avoid continually paying for the rights...
  • RonnyLive19881 - August 3, 2010 7:32 a.m.

    LOL Serves them right! I'm sick of EA selling the same game to kids and mentally ill adults every year! I hope those old farts get every penny... well at least after Dead Space 2 is out. AFTER THAT I HOPE THEY GO DOWN! Lol
  • Brett35 - August 3, 2010 4:03 a.m.

    GO PACKERS!!!!!!!!!!!! haha
  • JohnnyMaverik - August 3, 2010 3:18 a.m.

    Sorry I meant the former not the latter. There is no way out of Konami, EA, etc, etc... nobody has done a thorough legal check on this potential issue.
  • shadowreaper72 - August 3, 2010 2:31 a.m.

    OH FOR FUCKS SAKE noone gives a damn about nfl especially these old fuckers EA is trying to make games damn besides the nfl fucks already has enough money my advice is for the players to SHUT THE FUCKING HELL UP AND LET EA MAKE THEIR GAMES OLD ASS DOUCHEBAGS!!!
  • JohnnyMaverik - August 3, 2010 2:27 a.m.

    Actually I'm not sure they do have to pay em for it, there are plenty of other sports games that don't get the license to use player names or likenesses, so all they do is change the name and make the likeness rather hazy, e.g. Pro Evolution Soccer had "Rinaldinho" (aka Ronaldinho, the Brazilian attacking midfielder/striker) in their games for years, who had a hair style and features vaguely like him with out looking completely like him, played in the same positions, had his playing style and was at the same club as him, same high, weight, etc... and that's just the most obvious example, there are plenty more, thousands if not tens of thousands across multiple sports and games of diverse fame and popularity (New Star Soccer has always featured a "Rinaldinho" as well, and has no licensed players, but that's an indy game that relative to Madden or Pro Evo not many people know of or play). Either all these games know of a loop hole that allows them to do this, or nobody has done their legal homework and this will be the first of many such lawsuits to come, if successful. My bet is going on the latter, although this could lead to a closing of that loop hole, which I personally believe would be a massive, massive shame.
  • Usgo - August 3, 2010 1:55 a.m.

    hopefully the end of madden. Dawn of a better football game begin!
  • infestedandy - August 3, 2010 1:15 a.m.

    MARK! Quickly, before the football monsters and Packer fans get here - it's Favre! I know it's messed up. As a fellow writer it scrambles my brain as well. In relation to the article, I'm a bit confused. Granted, it's been a while since I've played a Madden title hardcore, but aren't the only players in the game on the current rosters? I know you can update them by going online, but it doesn't make sense to me how someone supposedly "scrolling through the menus" would find players from over 20 years ago. Why would there be a randomly generated guy with a random name on this team? That doesn't make sense. There's no way over 6,000 players could be hiding amongst the current rosters of the NFL. I just don't see how. Could someone clear this up?
  • yonderTheGreat - August 3, 2010 12:40 a.m.

    "Above: Madded NFL 09 apparently sold well because of all the retired players hidden inside the game. Farve? he had nothing to do with it." Dear God, please let that be a poorly-delivered pun...
  • number1hitjam - August 2, 2010 11:46 p.m.

    yay, rich people suing rich people. What's the point?
  • Cwf2008 - August 2, 2010 11:11 p.m.

    Greedy bastards...they already made millions why do they need more money?
  • D0CCON - August 2, 2010 11:02 p.m.

    Being both a Packer fan and a bit of an asshole, I just have to say, it's spelled Favre.
  • Cyberninja - August 2, 2010 10:49 p.m.

    when ea should learn its lessson from this their is no way they can win.

Showing 1-14 of 14 comments

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