Despite two years of legal shuffles from Electronic Arts, the company has failed its final motion to drop a pending lawsuit involving the payment of millions in royalties to a former Madden developer. Plaintiff Robin Antonick seeks millions of dollars for his “groundbreaking” work on the series that did not yield him the proper royalties. This dispute will now go on trial, currently set for June 17, 2013.
In a lengthy court document, Antonick is stated as being crucial to the Madden NFL franchise success, through his work on Commodore 64 and Apple II renditions of the game. It is said that he was the first to achieve a level of realism that involved all 11 players, which landed him a contract with EA. It’s this contract that the plaintiff now claims was not met, as EA evaded their royalty payments in further iterations using derivatives of this prior labor. Points include the acknowledgment of Trip Hawkins on several occasions for Antonick’s work, but more importantly game elements found in later games like cameras set in 3D space and replays, as well as a distancing from prior games that used predetermined paths in plays.
In turn, defendant Electronic Arts claims it owes no royalties since 1991 and that no code or other significant assets were used in later versions of NFL and hockey games. There’s a lengthy deposition worth reading here.
If I may depart from the shallow legal speech, there was one point in this document that was interesting for another reason. It reveals that the insidious mindset of yearly releases started some 20-odd years ago. In the text, it claims that Electronic Arts realized it could start producing games yearly with “minimal enhancements,” to reap massive profit from little work. It was a plan all along. Rather disconcerting to think that we’re already on the back-end of this sordid way of thinking, as it defeats a blossoming stage where this could be countered. This is the concept we now know EA’s sports label for and it has paid off well.
The Madden franchise has sold over 85 million copies alone and raked in $5 billion in profits.