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Great story on the history of the Madden video game franchise

22 Apr

Could this be the next Madden cover? All Brownies' fans hope so.

Click here to read this sweet ESPN: Outside The Lines recap by Patrick Hruby on the history of how EA Sports’ Madden franchise rose to prominence in the sports & gaming world.

 
 

Gamers launch class action lawsuit against EA for its exclusive license on Madden & NCAA games, allege the license led to overcharging

8 Apr

Electronic Arts is being sued for its exclusive license on Madden, NCAA & Arena Football League games from the past several years (presumably starting with Madden ’06 & NCAA ’06). 

If you purchased certain Electronic Arts brand football video games between January 1, 2005 to the present you may be eligible to join the lawsuit!

Thanks to Peyton Hillis & online voters, we will actually get to see a Browns player grace the Madden cover in 2012. Amazing. I was starting to think the only way that would happen is if EA Sports was so desperate for new ideas it started using kickers (Phil Dawson) or longsnappers (Ryan Pontbriand) as the face of its NFL game.

EA will probably defeat the claim against it b/c antitrust cases often force the plaintiff to put on quite an impressive amount of evidence proving the game developer truly closed competition in the market.  This civil suit standard is technically called a preponderance of the evidence (51%), which sounds relatively easy but is usually not the case in the land of antitrust litigation (this regards competition & fairness in the marketplace). 

While most gamers obviously wish other vendors like 2K Sports & Midway could make NFL games to compete with EA, it’s not like EA runs the entire videogame universe & is going Tony Soprano, telling all other game developers they’d better not think about making a football game or there’s going to be trouble.  In fact, those Blitz: The League pro football games came out, & no one is stopping another game developer from following in Midway’s footsteps and making its own unlicensed game using retired NFL players or players not part of the NFLPA (NFL Players Association). 

Midway featured former all-pro linebackers Lawrence Taylor & Bill Romanowski’s likenesses/voices as “Quintin Sands” & “Bruno Battaglia” in its Blitz games with fictional teams to overcome EA Sports’ exclusive license with the NFL.  I’m sure few people think those types of games are anywhere near as good to play as the Madden games, & I’d agree with that.  Still, those games got released & the first Blitz game obviously did some business or else Midway would’ve have bothered to make a sequel.  This may make proving competition was closed a tough sell, but more power to ’em! 

The great thing about this lawsuit is that it may make EA & the NFL think twice about pursuing another exclusivity license when the current one expires in 2012 (assuming it’s not renewed beforehand or extended further by a season-long NFL lockout in real life).  Lawsuits are bad press, & paying legal fees to defend yourself gets old fast.  Plus, most gamers hate this exclusive arrangement, so it’s a black eye for EA & the NFL.

Imagine if the NFL just lets the deal with EA run out, how great would that be?  This would finally mean diversity in the marketplace again, taking us back to the glory days of 2004!  Who remembers the joy of having your choice of:
1) arguably one of the best editions of Madden ever – Madden 2005, &
2) NFL 2K5.

Madden ’05 debuted the hit stick, & still let athletic QBs run & throw the ball accurately 70 yards down the field.  This wasn’t an extremely realistic passing attack, but was a blast to play.  That “big play” offensive model came off the heels of the Michael Vick-friendly Madden ’04 title.  Some Madden enthusiasts, including myself, still regard Madden ’04 as the most fun copy of Madden ever.

On the flip side in 2004 you had NFL 2k5, which had the fantastically low $19.99 MSRP & featured a relatively authentic ESPN broadcast presentation for the time.  Some people even thought this was a better game than the Madden edition that year.  I wouldn’t go that far, but who cares?  The point is Madden had some legit competition back then, & all was right with the world.

What does this mean for 2012 & beyond?  Video games are logically better when developers know another game has the chance to beat them in a competitive genre if each developer doesn’t bring its A game. 

So do we really need a class action lawsuit to get a better football video game?  It’s pretty clear that having multiple NFL videogames released each year would be the real victory for gamers, and we don’t necessarily need a judgment & court order to do that if the NFL takes action. 

All the NFL would have to do is decide exclusive licenses are too much of a hassle & make sure it can get more money collectively from all the football game developers than it could make from EA alone.  Once that happens, diversity in the marketplace returns, and it’s a touchdown dance for the consumer.

As for this lawsuit, EA will probably win b/c other football titles do exist.  Even if EA loses, most class-action plaintiffs will probably only get like 75 cents or a free download of “NFL Labor Dispute 2014” or whatever new idea EA rolls out in a demo the year this case is resolved.  “Labor Dispute 2014” could be like the ill-fated “Head Coach” EA series, where you attend meetings, run an office, fill out paperwork, manage a schedule…basically an awful, boring football RPG every 14-year old Madden fan will put down in favor of finishing his homework.

Whether EA wins or loses, the lawyers are probably still getting paid…so we can all look forward to that.

Here’s the details from the web page link that was emailed to members of the class action:

GEOFFREY PECOVER and ANDREW OWENS v. ELECTRONIC ARTS INC.
U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal. – Oakland Div.)
Case No. 08-cv-02820 CW

 

If You Purchased Certain Electronic Arts Brand Football Video Games
Between January 1, 2005 to the Present
You May Be a Class Member.

 

 

Membership as a class member in the Electronic Arts Litigation is the result of a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, Oakland Division (Case No. 08-cv-02820 CW).

What Is This Class Action About?

The class action lawsuit alleges violations of California’s antitrust and consumer protection laws in connection with the sale of certain football video games. Plaintiffs, purchasers of Electronic Arts’ football video games, claim that Defendant Electronic Arts entered into a series of exclusive licenses with the National Football League (NFL), National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA), National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), and Arena Football League (AFL), which Plaintiffs claim foreclosed competition in an alleged football video game market. Plaintiffs allege that this series of exclusive licenses caused customers who purchased certain football video games to be overcharged. 
Defendant Electronic Arts has denied any liability and all allegations of misconduct. The Court has not decided whether the Defendants did anything wrong, and this Notice is not an expression of any opinion by the Court about the merits of any of the claims or defenses asserted by any party to this litigation.

Who Are Class Members?

The Class includes all persons who, during the period January 1, 2005 to the present, purchased the Madden NFL, NCAA Football, or Arena Football League brand video games published by Electronic Arts with a release date of January 1, 2005 to the present. Excluded from the class are purchasers of software for mobile devices, persons purchasing directly from Electronic Arts, persons purchasing used copies of the relevant football video games, and Electronic Arts’ employees, officers, directors, legal representatives, and wholly or partly owned subsidiaries or affiliated companies.

What Should I Do? (Getting Further Information)

If you believe that you may be a class member (see above “Who Are Class Members”), you should get more detailed information about the class action and its potential effect on you and your rights. Further information can be obtained by going to the following website: http://www.easportslitigation.com. Additional information about the lawsuit may be obtained from Plaintiffs’ Counsel website at http://www.hbsslaw.com, or by calling Plaintiffs’ Counsel at 1-206-623-7292.

To Remain a Class Member

If you are a class member and you do nothing, you will be bound by the court’s rulings in the lawsuit, including any final Settlement or Judgment.

To Exclude Yourself from the Class(Deadline to Request Exclusion: June 25, 2011)

If you are a class member and you want to exclude yourself from the class and keep your right to sue Defendant, you must take further action before June 25, 2011. By that date, you must request exclusion in writing to this address:

Electronic Arts Litigation Exclusion
P.O. Box 8090
San Rafael CA 94912-8090

Or submit a request for exclusion electronically at the following website: www.easportslitigation.com

For further information about excluding yourself from the class go to the following website:
www.easportslitigation.com

Please do not telephone or address inquiries to the Court.
April 6, 2011. By Order of the U.S. District Court (N.D. Cal. – Oakland Div.).

Your football fix for early April: Breaking down the zone blitz

5 Apr

Chris at SmartFootball.com did a nice job of analyzing Dick LeBeau’s zone blitz scheme, with plenty of pictures and some video to boot.  He also breaks down how Dom Capers implements the zone blitz for your education & enjoyment.

I’ve interviewed LeBeau & attended a Capers’ presser – both are defensive genuises who are a lot of fun to learn from.  It’s no surprise these seasoned NFL vets were the last 2 defensive coordinators standing at season’s end, facing off in the 2011 Super Bowl.

Chess Match: These defensive masterminds leave most Xs & Os vets in the dust.

Click here to read the article.

NFL labor dispute: Union claims NFL’s offer ‘a front’; NFL fires back

14 Mar

Apparently the NFL & its owners don’t realize how replaceable pro football is.  Any Browns’ fans who followed the team prior to its move to Baltimore after the 1995 season remembers life without the NFL.  Sure, there were games on TV, but they didn’t include any teams you really cared about, so after awhile you just stopped watching.  Browns’ teams since haven’t been a whole lot of fun to watch either for the most part, but at least we have a team to follow. 

The days when Sunday was about getting homework, business work, or chores around the house done don’t seem that long ago.  The first few weeks you would remember that football was on, but be a little sad you didn’t have a team to cheer for that day.  Incredibly, within a matter of weeks, new hobbies, ambitions, and interests sprang up.

And now, all those options are better.  There are more sports, more TV stations, most everything offered in high definition too.  We’ve got games to play on the Internet, and on our cell phones for that matter.  There’s MMA, competitive eating, amazing online gaming, and movies in 3-D…all things that practically didn’t exist back when the Browns left in 1995.

Yeah, we're not too excited about the work stoppage either. Attention owners & players: The average fan does not like to watch millionaires bicker about how to get even more millions.

Want a more current example?  It wasn’t that long ago the NHL had a big labor dispute, and the sport is still trying to recover.  Their games used to be played on ESPN, now you have to hunt around to find them on Versus.  ESPN replaced the NHL games with college & NBA basketball, & seemingly upped its reporting for the latter two while diminishing its NHL coverage.  Hockey would love to be relevant, but people are so used to life without it on a major channel several nights a week that it’s hard to be a factor anymore.

So now NFL owners apparently want a “safer” league where players play more games.  The more games you play, the more chances for a concussion.  This does not sound like a plan to make the game safer.

We all know the owners want a bigger slice of the pie, b/c they’re taking all the financial risk.  Nevermind the players are taking all the health risk.  Adrian Peterson runs “all day” now, but in 15 years he may struggle to walk into a room.  Worse, once he gets there, he might forget what he went in the room for in the first place.

Hopefully at some point the NFL administration, its owners & players will come to a new labor agreement & we’ll have a normal draft, training camp period, and regular season.  If they don’t, they’ll likely be shocked at how quickly everybody just moves onto something else. 

After all, some of us have better things to do than spend 3+ hours watching 4-5 minutes of live game action (when you add up the few seconds each play takes – the rest is mostly just talking heads & commercials).

I happen to be watching some great NBA basketball right now & enjoying it.  NFL what??

Here’s a nice story on the NFL labor dispute from ESPN.com: 

WASHINGTON — Had enough of the he-said, he-said rancor between the NFL and players? Don’t expect it to go away anytime soon.

The outcome of the league’s first work stoppage since 1987 could be decided in court; the first hearing on the players’ request for an injunction to block the owners’ lockout was scheduled for April 6. In the meantime, there probably will be more of the same as Monday, when Kevin Mawae — president of the NFL Players Association, the now-dissolved union — accused the league of spreading “complete falsehoods and complete lies.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, on the same conference call as Mawae, said the owners’ final offer Friday “was all a front.”

“I think it was all a show, with no real intent to get a deal done, other than just to say they made a proposal — that was no different than anything else that they proposed over the last couple years, couple months, couple weeks,” said Brees, a named plaintiff in the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the league.

Brees and Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday, also a member of the players’ executive committee, complained that the players were not given enough time to assess and ask questions about the proposal owners made Friday morning.

“It just seems odd you would wait until Friday to put out a 20-point proposal, when each point has a number of different details in it,” Saturday said.

The NFL’s lead labor negotiator, Jeff Pash, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that Friday’s proposal contained various new provisions. He said owners offered a 10-year deal.

“I was frankly surprised that the [owners’ labor] committee supported an offer as forthcoming as that was,” Pash said.

He also said the league would have been willing to agree to a third extension to the collective bargaining agreement, which originally was due to expire at the end of March 3, before two delays. But another extension, he said, “wasn’t really discussed in a serious way, because it was perfectly obvious they weren’t interested.”

By the end of Friday, talks broke off, the union announced it no longer would represent players, Brees and others filed suit, and the owners imposed a lockout at midnight.

“If they were saying they were not going to negotiate, under any circumstance, after 4 p.m. on Friday, don’t you think you have to ask yourself: Who was it who was in Washington putting on a show?” Pash said.

“We answered all the questions they had at the time, and we never put a deadline on it. We’re not the ones who were filing a lawsuit at 5 o’clock,” Pash said.

For all the things the owners and players disagree on, the two main sticking points are clear: how much money owners would get up front before dividing the rest of $9 billion in annual revenues with players, and the union’s demand for full financial disclosure.

“If we’re going to talk about ‘trust,’ maybe you should ask the owners if they trust each other to see each others’ books,” Mawae said. “I think that’s a greater issue than the players trusting the owners.”

Under the old CBA, owners received more than $1 billion to cover certain operating expenses, before other money was split with players. When negotiations began on a new deal, the owners sought an additional $1 billion off the top. Both sides acknowledge there was movement in that area.

But as the NFLPA’s lead spokesman, George Atallah, put it Monday: “The perception is that we were really, really close. The reality is we really, really weren’t.”

Because the NFLPA says it no longer is a union, but rather a trade association — a distinction the NFL calls a “sham” — Atallah said any decision to return to negotiations would be up to the lawyers representing the players, rather than NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. Asked whether there would be talks before the April 6 hearing, Atallah replied: “As of now, no.”

An NFLPA source seconded that notion to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Monday afternoon. The source expects a ruling on the players’ injunction request within a week of the hearing.

“No chance whatsoever,” the source said when asked if a settlement was possible. “There is no union anymore so it is impossible for collective bargaining to occur and there will be no settlement or even the discussion of it before this injunction is ruled on.”

The league, meanwhile, would prefer to return to the negotiating table. Starting Feb. 18, the sides met 16 times at federal mediator’s office.

“We would get back together with them tomorrow if they wanted to. We’re not the ones who walked out. We’re not the ones who renounced our status. We’re not the ones who filed litigation,” Pash said. “So we would get back together with them tomorrow. And if they have questions about our proposal, we’d answer them. If they have alternatives they want us to consider, we’d consider them.”

Mawae said that if the NFL contends the union walked away from mediation, “that’s a fabrication and a lie. We sat in that room … Tuesday and Wednesday of last week for 16 hours. … We met face-to-face a total of 30 minutes.”

Fan from unsafe seating area calls Super Bowl XLV a “total disaster”

10 Feb

By Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com

An NFL executive doesn’t blame fans for being angry over losing their seats at Super Bowl XLV.

NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman, in an interview with ESPN 970-AM in Pittsburgh on Thursday, summed up the situation as “awful.”

“We made the best of it. We screwed it up. I can’t change that,” Grubman said. “I’m a football fan and before I worked at the Super Bowl I took my young sons and my father … to see the New York Giants and if that would have happened to me, I would be furious.”

Temporary seats at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, weren’t ready in time, forcing some fans to move and others to watch from standing-room spots. The league has come up with a number of different ways to compensate displaced fans, but at least one class-action lawsuit has been filed against the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys, and their owner, Jerry Jones.

With Jerry World turned into the planet Hoth, 400 fans seats were deemed unsafe due to the weather in Dallas. Must be global warming!

Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement Thursday expanding the league’s compensation to fans that were inconvenienced at the game. Some 2,000 fans in temporary seating who were delayed in getting to their seats “will receive a choice of either a refund of the face-value amount of their ticket or a free ticket to a future Super Bowl game of their choice.”

In the days after the Packers’ 31-25 Super Bowl win over the Steelers, the league has given the displaced fans two options: $2,400 — triple the face value of the ticket — and a ticket to next year’s Super Bowl, or a ticket to any future Super Bowl, with round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations included.

The plan Goodell announced Thursday is separate from the original package.

One of the angry fans is a granddaughter of the first president of the Green Bay Packers. She says she was among the 400 ticketholders forced to watch the Packers play the Pittsburgh Steelers from standing-room spots because their seats weren’t safe.

In a letter sent to the NFL, which she provided to The Associated Press, Peggy Beisel-McIlwaine says Jones should never be allowed to host another Super Bowl. She called her experience a “total disaster.”

Beisel-McIlwaine wrote that it took several hours — and miles of walking — before stadium and league officials finally led her and other displaced fans from their upper deck seats to a field level bar area behind the Pittsburgh Steelers bench — with no view of the field.

The 55-year-old woman from Michigan told the AP she received a call Wednesday from the NFL, and will be going to the league office Friday in New York to meet with a person who is handling her situation.

“I hope we can get this remedied quickly,” she wrote.

Beisel-McIlwaine’s grandfather was Andrew Blair Turnbull, the Packers’ first president and a member of the team’s Hall of Fame. Her father was Daniel C. Beisel, a Packers’ board member from 1968 until his death in 2009.

The NFL knew about the seating problem days before kickoff but still couldn’t solve the problem of fixing the seats. Grubman said it’s nearly impossible to get the temporary seats inspected until they’re completed. Still, 400 fans didn’t get to see the Super Bowl the way they wanted and that’s a problem.

“It’s a construction project when you put up these stands, these temporary stands,” Grubman said. “You put up the outside of the building and then you’ve got to finish it and there’s a lot of detail work and you can’t get the inspections until you do the finished detail work. And we just didn’t get that done. Literally, an hour before the game, we thought we were going to have all the seats and we just didn’t get it done.”

The big question concerning all this regards North Texas and whether the region will get another chance to host a Super Bowl. The next three Super Bowl sites have been decided and North Texas would like to host Super Bowl L.

“It was a regional approach to the Super Bowl and they did a great job and they were great hosts,” he said. “I tell you, I would go back there again. … I don’t think they took themselves out of the running. Do we plan it better next time? You betcha.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Thursday that 40 employees have been assigned to help identify and assist fans who were left without seats. He said 260 of the ticketholders have either been located or have called the league. Some have shown up at the league’s New York office.

A Packers’ season ticketholder, Beisel-McIlwaine bought two tickets for the Super Bowl at face value, $800 apiece. When she arrived with her son at their seats — “in the nose bleed section, 425A seats 4 and 5” — about three hours before the game, stadium officials said they weren’t ready. Eventually, they were told the seats weren’t going to be available at all and, like many others in the same predicament, ended up without a view at field level, forced to watch the game on television.

During her ordeal, Beisel-McIlwaine wrote that she was sent from one ticket office to another and back again, then back to her seats, which by then were covered with a black tarp.

“We were getting nowhere,” she wrote in her letter to the NFL. “Everyone was passing it off to someone else and no one seemed to know what was going on. It was truly a run around.”

Beisel-McIlwaine wrote that she “grabbed one of the few tables and two chairs and we were joined shortly by two other Packer fans. There were many folks in this bar now, many of which had to sit on the floor.”

Free food and drink was available, but even watching on TV was a problem: The picture was supplied by the NFL feed, and the audio was from the Fox telecast.

“They were not in sync with each other and it was very difficult to determine what down or how many yards there were to go unless we listened very closely,” Beisel-McIlwaine wrote.

There was a benefit: After the Packers won and the Lombardi Trophy was presented, “they did lead us out onto the field so we could get a look and actually were able to thank many of the Packer players and coaches.”

Beisel-McIlwaine said she wore a pedometer on Super Bowl Sunday, and clocked 21,823 steps. Using the commonly accepted average of about 2,000 steps per mile, that translates to more than 10 miles, up and down steps and through crowded concourses.

“I’m 55 and fortunately in good shape and health, but I saw many in wheel chairs and one person on crutches,” she said.