EA Being Sued For Millions By Original Madden Creator

The John Madden series of football games is ginormously successful. In the 20 years since the first clunky version of the game appeared, the series has sold over 85 million copies. By any estimate we’re talking a billion dollar franchise; for those of you reading this in the year 2111, that’s a huge amount of money. Naturally a lot of people want to shove their fingers into that substantial pie. Enter Robin Antonick, a software developer who worked on the very first Madden game back in the Reagan Administration. Antonick was largely responsible for creating the actual software on which the OG version of Madden ran; he claims that his contract with EA entitled him to royalties for subsequent versions of Madden created based on that software.

EA paid Antonick royalties through approximately 1992, at which point they apparently stopped using his software in new versions of Madden games. Skip ahead to 2008, and the 20th anniversary of the Series. Antonick claims that statements made by EA founder Trip Hawkins during the celebration of that milestone prove they’re still using the original software he developed, and now he’s attempting to sue the pants off them:

“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,” says the complaint. “Instead, according to recent statements by Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, the current generation of software apparently derived from software developed by Antonick.”

Antonick is seeking tens of millions of owed royalties, plus disgorgement of all profits from the sale of the game as the result of allegedly fraudulent behavior. The game franchise has reaped more than $4 billion in profits over the years.

Ouch. That’s a-big-a-lawsuit. If the allegations are true, EA stands to take a giant hit to their wallet, and the timing couldn’t be worse: with the NFL owners being dishonest, greedy, lying douchebags er, I mean, with talks between NFL players and owners breaking down1 and the owners threatening to cancel the upcoming season2, industry observers are predicting a potential 50% drop in normal Madden sales. The last thing EA needs is for their cash cow to wind up making them look like they own actual NFL teams instead of the rights to their likenesses3.

For their part, EA’s response is unambiguous:

“The complaint and its 20 year-old claim are utterly without merit.”

We’ll keep our eyes peeled for further developments. In the meantime, would you play an NFL season-free edition of Madden?

1) Certainly not due to the fact that the owners are being dishonest, greedy, lying douchebags. Perish the thought!
2) Really, the owners are getting a bad rap. Everyone knows people go to Dallas Cowboy games to see Jerry Jones act like an entitled jerk who wants to treat his players like serfs.
3) Zing!

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