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ESPN And Electronic Arts Sign 15-Year Deal 332

Posted by timothy
from the long-term-thinking dept.
acxr is wasted writes "Electronic Arts has dealt another blow to rival Sega by signing a 15-year agreement with ESPN, giving the publisher exclusive video game rights to ESPN branded material. EA has recently faced pressure from popular ESPN-branded Sega titles released at discount prices, prompting their recent deal with the NFL, and failed bid for the NBA."
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ESPN And Electronic Arts Sign 15-Year Deal

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  • 15 years?!? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 17, 2005 @08:49PM (#11390757)
    This sort of thing shouldn't be legal.
  • by Sheetrock (152993) on Monday January 17, 2005 @08:51PM (#11390778) Homepage Journal
    These sports games are getting really stale anyway. These deals actually free Sega up to do something creative with the genre, ala Mutant League Football/Hockey.

    RPGs are the most important thing on any console anyway.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by demosthenes247 (805399) on Monday January 17, 2005 @08:54PM (#11390805)
    sports fans usually have favorite players and teams, and love the fact that they are able to play as their own specific team/player. the espn games aren't simply branded as ESPN. they have the look and feel of ESPN telecasts as well as ESPN announcers and commentators. this just adds to the overall experience of the game which is supposed to be a recreation of the NBA or NHL or whatever. the fantasy league game would be utterly boring.
  • Re:15 years?!? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tuxter (809927) on Monday January 17, 2005 @08:56PM (#11390821) Journal
    And Marriages.... Actually, maybe he's right.....
  • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by odano (735445) on Monday January 17, 2005 @08:57PM (#11390826)
    The only response to this I have is: It just isn't the same. If I am playing an NFL game, I want the actual players are teams.

    I understand it really seems stupid, but it makes the game more fun if you know the players and the teams, and who to give the ball to; to run the actual plays the team runs. It adds an extra level of excitement to playing the game.

    I did like Sega branded ESPN Sports games, but I must admit, I doubt I am going to buy a football game that doesn't use the NFL player names and team names.

    What worries me most is the fact that sans competition EA sports games aren't going to get any better, which sucks for the consumer.
  • by samdu (114873) <samdu.ronintech@com> on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:01PM (#11390867) Homepage
    "We don't anticipating changing anything significantly from what we are currently doing," Larry Probst, chairman and chief executive of EA, said in an interview.


    And there is EA's CEO admitting as much. This is horrible for the industry. EA has cranked out some crap this year, but the pressure from Sega has been keeping the Sports line programmers on their toes. Now with no competition, they're free to churn out crappy sports games, too. Sigh.

  • Re:Ehh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by prockcore (543967) on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:09PM (#11390921)
    Oh well, this doesn't change my stance on EA. They haven't produced a decent game in over 5 years.

    If you mean published a decent game, you're wrong. In fact, I'm playing Burnout 3 right now, and loving it.

    If you mean developed a decent game.. well that's another story.
  • by Solr_Flare (844465) on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:11PM (#11390938)
    What is dangerous is that EA is definitely trying to consolidate the industry. They are doing sports games right now, but how long till they start moving in on your company of choice? They already made an initial attempt at Ubisoft, and they are buying licenses from Nintendo. Who is going to be next on the list?

    If EA gets enough control over the gaming industry, even if you never play their games they'll still be able to have an impact. How about, for example, increasing the price on their games to $60 a pop? If EA has enough marketshare in the industry, you don't think every other publisher wouldn't follow suit?

    That's just one example. EA is out to win big. Check out this article here:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4180453.stm

    EA's stated long term goal is to become the largest Entertainment Firm in the world. They want to take on the big names in the movie industry via games. They cite Disney as one of their targets to beat in future years.

    EA isn't going to stop this, it is just going to keep getting worse until they are either:

    A) Forced to stop B) The well dries up on them and they die from bloat.

    Either way, this is bad for the consumer. This is most definitely *not* a healthy monolopy they are trying to form.
  • Really matters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by siskbc (598067) on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:12PM (#11390944) Homepage
    These sports games are getting really stale anyway. These deals actually free Sega up to do something creative with the genre...

    It matters. The reason why EA did this is because last year ESPN came out with a pretty damned good football game and priced it at $19.99. EA priced theirs at $49.99, figuring that their brand recognition would allow them to charge double. They were wrong. EA had to drop their price, and evidently didn't like it because they got pissed enough to shell out for an exclusive license.

    Result is they have a monopoly on NFL-licensed games for a long time. For sports fans - clearly not you, but there is some gamer/sports overlap - this sucks because we only have one choice, and it's guaranteed to be overpriced.

    More than likely, no other significant NFL games will be made. Even creative games like NFL blitz etc typically need licenses to survive.

    RPGs are the most important thing on any console anyway.

    You are kidding right? Console sales of RPGs are almost negligible.

  • Re:Microsoft (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EvilSS (557649) on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:13PM (#11390951)
    Don't blame EA for this. They are looking after their own interestes (as any company should do in a matter like this). Blame ESPN and the NFL for agreeing to these deals.
  • Re:Microsoft (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hal2814 (725639) on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:15PM (#11390963)
    I thought that Madden 64 did a good job without NFL logos or player names. I'm pretty sure that most people buying an American fooball game know that Red, Back, and White team called "Atlanta" is the Atlanta Falcons. They also have a pretty good idea that the "7" guy lined up at quarterback is Michael Vick. You can keep the strategies, teams and players without the logos.
  • Re:Mixed Feelings (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phriedom (561200) on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:19PM (#11390990)
    I agree. By itself this isn't a big deal. The ESPN name adds a little bit of credibility, and the ESPN announcer voices add a bit of professionalism to the image, but there is no real substance lost. However, the NFL's decision to sell exclusive rights is a much bigger deal, and when you combine that with ESPN's decision, its a pretty nasty one-two punch to Sega.

    It might be the right decision for ESPN, but I really think it was a bad move by the NFL. Yes, it is money in the bank now for the NFL, but I think in the long term it works against them. A vibrant, competitive video game market for NFL licensed games is a HUGE promotion/marketing tool for the NFL. People playing the games get a lot more involved in the players and teams that people who just watch it on TV sometimes. I'll admit I never watched any football until I played Madden on the playstation and learned about the teams and the players and how the play calling influenced the game. I think that video games and fantasy leagues provide the kind of interaction that makes watching football exciting in a way that NO amount of regular advertising and promotion can do at any price. Plus, video games reach teens when they are impressionable and can make them NFL fans for life. Putting all their eggs in the EA basket might be a decision they come to regret.

    I guess some of that applies to ESPN too. By taking the deal from EA they are cutting them selves off from Sega and other companies that might be willing to pay for the priviledge of promoting ESPN.
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:23PM (#11391021) Homepage Journal
    ESPN gave someone an exclusive license for FIFTEEN YEARS?!

    The industry could radically change in fifteen years. EA could shoot itself in the foot in five years, becoming an also-ran. Fifteen years in the video game industry is like 45 years in the world of broadcasting.

    It might be three years from now, or five, or 10 years from now, but ESPN will live to regret this deal.

  • by Warskull (846730) on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:25PM (#11391039)
    I don't think EA actually bought the ESPN license for the "X Games" this time. I think the real reason they bough the ESPN license is because they haven't secured exclusive deals the the NBA and NHL. So if you can't prevent your competition from making games, steal their license and name. Sega was releasing ESPN hockey, football, and basketball games that were easily 3 times better than EA game for half the price (at release.) EA knows their business model can't come up with a game to match their quality and matching the price would defeat the whole purpose of their business model (sacrifice quality and your employees welfare for highest possible profits.) Thus they steal Sega's license.
  • by blueZhift (652272) on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:31PM (#11391084) Homepage Journal
    Well now that EA has essentially bought up everything that a competitor like Sega might want to use to brand their football games, I wonder if Madden 2006 will be the last game with the Madden branding. Madden himself is getting old and given the way EA puts out a new football game every year, perhaps less relevant. Soon many of the fans playing the game won't even know who Madden is, many probably don't now. So the Madden name itself may not be worth as much as it used to be. Another question I would have is just how much longer does the current deal to use Madden's name last? If that deal expires soon, then what many of us know as Madden may eventually be known as EA ESPN NFL Football 2007.

    So maybe EA isn't an evil monopolist after all, they're just planning for the future!
  • Sad Day (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dr.banes (823348) on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:33PM (#11391099)
    EA has been making crap lately. The fact that ESPN 2k4 and 5 has been kicking Madden's ass for the past 2 years is not news,the same goes for their hockey and basketball lines. ESPN continued to tweak gameplay and graphics to the point that it looks and feels like a real game--not to forget that videogame magazines,websites and tv shows have noticed and gave more favorable reviews to ESPN despite pressure from the mega publisher. So I may not buy console football for another 5 years f---it. I doubt the doj will get involved unless the smaller companies make a big deal of it.
  • Re:Really matters (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geminidomino (614729) * on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:33PM (#11391102) Journal
    You are kidding right? Console sales of RPGs are almost negligible.

    For values of "consoles" limited to "In the US" and RPGs approaching "Not Final Fantasy" you're right.

    Japan is a different story. There's a reason that Dragon Quest games can only be released on weekends over there.
  • Re:15 years?!? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by swv3752 (187722) <swv3752@h o t m ail.com> on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:34PM (#11391112) Homepage Journal
    And these teams have strong armed local, state and federal goverment into funding thier stadiums and enforcing thier trademarks. There is definately an argument that the public should get something back.

  • Re:15 years?!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday January 17, 2005 @09:47PM (#11391204) Journal
    No, the public should tell the NFL where to go. If people are stupid enoug to vote for tax subsidies for billionaires, then they are stupid enough to vote for tax breaks for billionaires without any compensation for themselves.
  • Re:15 years?!? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gl4ss (559668) on Monday January 17, 2005 @10:09PM (#11391335) Homepage Journal
    heheh.. well. the REAL problem here is that will the contract be in effect if ea goes bankrupt or into a hiatus?

    besides.. it doesn't really affect the games quality if it's branded something or not.

    15 year deal is just STUUUUUUPID for espn.
  • Boycott (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pieisgood (841871) on Monday January 17, 2005 @10:38PM (#11391519) Journal
    I swear to god I am never buying another EA game. These guys are ruining the face of the video game developement industry. There are a few proud companies out there though, id, Oddworld inhabitants, Valve (I don't like them or how they work, but they are still better than EA), and Atari. I really want to see more small game dev. companies poping up. I am sorta really at a loss when I hear people say "Need for speed underground 2 is so awesome!", if EA can pump out a game with so many ads and then start putting all of the POP culture greats into a game .... gah I can't take it. as previously stated in another post of mine "Fuck off EA".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 17, 2005 @10:56PM (#11391628)
    *current* ESPN management is laughing all the way to the bank. In a few years they are all cashed out on hawaii and then what do they care ?

    Its all about short term profits.
  • by superultra (670002) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @01:16AM (#11392394) Homepage
    This is actually good news. I think it's the beginning of the end for EA.

    First, my bet is that Sony, MS, and Nintendo are as worried as anyone about EA's rise to power. The could quite nearly already ruin a console (cf. Dreamcast). But now, if a console maker isn't doling out favors and money to EA, they will find themselves in a very difficult position. I wonder if we won't begin to see some interesting powerplays behind the scenes, with MS/Sony/Nintendo running some subvert rescue operations to somehow curb EA from gobling all the power dots on the board.

    The other positives in this is that we will probably start to see all the things that come with being in a near-monopoly level of control. Lawsuits against EA will inevitably ensue.

    Finally, I don't care what EA says - a vaccum of competition makes teams lazy. What does Tiberon, the studio behind Madden, have to worry about if they have a few bad features in the game? Why bother paying for focus groups, or worrying about review scores or message board feedback, if your game is the only NFL game on the market for the next X years? Mark my words: the progression we've seen in the quality of EA's sports titles will begin to diminish.

    You don't use an ICBM to kill an ant hill. EA was obviously worried about Sega. They wouldn't have gone to all this trouble for the hell of it. You don't see them suddenly making exclusive Curling League contracts. They were starting to hurt after last year's $20 high quality sports titles.

    If EA can bleed, they can be killed.
  • Blatant revenge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rkischuk (463111) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @01:25AM (#11392447)
    If it wasn't obvious before, it should be fairly evident now. Sega pissed EA off like never before when it dropped all its game prices to $19.99. Not only did it threaten their market share, it threatened to change the paradigm for sports game pricing.

    EA would take a MASSIVE hit if customers began to EXPECT to only pay $19.99 for each year's incremental update to the prior year's sports games. It would not only hurt them in the games where Sega provides direct competition (NFL, NBA, NHL, etc), it would force them to shift the price of their unopposed games. Why would gamers pay $50 for Tiger Woods or NASCAR after paying just $20 for Madden?

    Rest assured, somewhere in the upper levels of EA, the bosses are paying a premium for these deals because they're factoring in the extra cash they'll make once Sega is crushed. The NFL was the opening salvo, the failed NBA bid an attempted backbreaker (especially since Sega's NBA game has been generally better in recent years). The Arena Football League deal attempts to seal off Sega's escape route (Sega could have design an AFL game to keep their football engine primed for the expiration of the NFL deal). But this is the heavy artillery. While Sega had begun establishing itself as a credible creator of sports games, the added ESPN name gave immediate credibility to the series in the eyes of consumers. Sega is some company that made a console they used to play Sonic on, ESPN almost defines sports to many Americans. Taking ESPN out of their hands puts them back to trying to build the Sega Sports name, but without a licensed NFL game as their flagship. EA is out for blood.

  • Re:15 years?!? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the-banker (169258) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @08:48AM (#11393984)
    Actually that situation is easy to resolve. If EA ever went bankrupt, their rights to use ESPN, NFL etc... would be sold once approved by the bankruptcy court. Rights contracts are an asset just like computers and inventory in this way.

    Honestly, I don't see the issue here - someone can't make a product that says it officially endorsed by me without my permission. If I choose to only give that to one entity, then that is my decision.

    If people don't like it, they should buy other games. It doesn't prevent someone from making another football game - it just prevents them from using trademarked property of the NFL/ESPN.

    Look at it this way - should Microsoft be able to take IE7 and call it FireFox?

  • Re:Gutless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Londovir (705740) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @06:28PM (#11401800)

    Okay, this story has faded enough that this response is going to be lost in the archives of history. Still, I cannot and will not abide such a response without giving an opinion back.

    How amazingly narrowsighted your views are. You are one of those wonderful individuals who will sit back and watch grievances take place without speaking out or against it, all under the banner of "rationality". How many things develop to the point where they negatively impact society in one fashion or another simply because, at their onset, people said, "It's a triviality, it's luxury, it has little importance."

    Why does the status of a videogame mean less of value than an OS? For that matter, by your own statement, even an OS company couldn't be a monopoly, as using an OS is "a luxury...something that doesn't require loss of life or limb to boycott". Monopolism, in any form, is something that should be aggressively fought against. The ripple ramifications go far beyond your narrowminded ability to see the forest for the trees. If EA is allowed to remain unchecked, as they are going in the present, their negative influences will cascade outward. What starts today to you as a recreational endeavor will begin to become acquisition of competition, closing of studios, terminations of employees, loss of income for those employees, unemployment, stifling of competition, increase of pricing for limited choice products, and so forth. We've already seen many cases where the electronics industry (both videogame and computer) have definite impact on the stock market, thus the economy to a small scale.

    You speak so cavalierly in your post it frankly reflects poorly on your view of civilization. When do you draw the line? At what point does your so-called morality dictate that you stand up and take a stance. You speak derogatively of people who rightly speak out against EA's tactics as being "whiny" and "obnoxious". Did you read your own post? It didn't read like an intelligently composed opinion of others, but rather a blasting, ill-thought tirade against other people's opinions, which I'm disappointed to see that the moderators of /. chose to mod all the way up to +4 for being Informative.

    The reality is, whether or not a company promotes, produces, or owns something which is not life supporting, it is still morally [and legally] WRONG to own a monopoly of it (in most cases). Your friend's choice to violate her own argument against WalMart by shopping there does not translate to the arguments of those of us who may have little choice but to purchase a game from EA if it's the only choice we have. We are not hypocrites if we choose to do so, for in our case we literally have no alternative. Your friend, however, may very well go shopping at KMart, Target, etc. That's the difference. Perhaps you could argue we shouldn't support EA with our dollars since a football game is not a life necessity, but we also shouldn't have to go without entirely because a company utilizes business practices that are beyond contempt.

    No one deserves to have a corporation walk all over them, and I'm disappointed that you believe anyone does. We have laws in this country that are there to protect competition, protect innovation, and to protect the consumer. These laws aren't written to say "so long as the product is vital to life", or "so long as the product is important", or "so long as the product is deemed worthy of protection by Shihar". That's the point. The consumer shouldn't have to vote with their money (if they even can at all) in order to be protected by the laws of the country. That's why people post here, and also write their government representatives (such as I have) to seek their assistance in having the laws applied to corporations.

    My point is, I've read of the difficulties that many programmers have faced working at EA. I've read the blogs from some of them about the hours they worked and the lack of pay they encountered. My first reaction was not, "If they didn't like it, they should hav

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