If you still have a copy of any NCAA Football game or need an extra incentive to get your hands on the NCAA Football ’14, I’m about to give you a rather huge one.
Every NCAA Football game is about to become a collector’s item.
Starting next year, NCAA will no longer permit EA Sports to use its logo since it will not seek a new contract with EA Sports (the game’s manufacturer) once it expires June 2014. Why you may ask, because of a high-profile lawsuit filed against the NCAA which states they owe billions of dollars to former players for allowing their likenesses to be used for free.
It all started with a lawsuit filed by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon after he was shown a video game with an avatar playing for the Bruins that played a lot like him.
For those who are not aware, NCAA Football allows gamers to play as any major college football team, though unlike in its professional sports games, the names of players are not used. They are replaced by avatars. However, the similarities between the avatars in the game and actual college athletes are at the root of the lawsuit.
The antitrust lawsuit also names EA and the Collegiate Licensing Co. which handles trademark licensing for dozens of schools, the NCAA and various conferences. The suit has expanded to include several former athletes including, Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer and kicker Jake Smith, Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham, Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson, and Minnesota tight end Moses Alipate and wide receiver Victor Keise, who claim the NCAA and EA Sports used their names and likenesses without compensation and demand the NCAA find a way to give players a cut of the billions of dollars earned from live broadcasts, memorabilia sales and video games.
Fans of NCAA don’t worry, this isn’t the beginning of the end, EA Sports will continue to produce the college football games and you will most likely see schools like Alabama, Ohio State and Oregon continue to partake in the games. More than 150 colleges, conferences and bowl games have approved a three-year contract extension with EA Sports that will continue production of the company’s college football video game despite the ongoing legal controversy surrounding it. The contract renewal gives EA Sports the rights to use schools’ logos, trademarks, stadiums, mascots, and other school-specific indications in a college football video game that EA produces and sells.
Andrew Wilson, EA Sports’ Executive Vice President had this to say,
EA Sports will continue to develop and publish college football games, but we will no longer include the NCAA names and marks. Our relationship with the Collegiate Licensing Co. is strong and we are already working on a new game for next generation consoles which will launch next year and feature the college teams, conferences and all the innovation fans expect from EA Sports.
EA Sports first started working with NCAA Football in 1998 and has gone on to partner with Madden, NFL, FIFA Soccer and many others; reported $3.8 billion in net revenue during its last fiscal year and, aside from its NCAA Football franchise. While NCAA Football games have generated more than $1.3 billion in U.S. sales, it is estimated that it only accounts for 5% of EA Sports’ revenue.
NCAA released this statement,
We are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games. But given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA. The NCAA has never licensed the use of current student-athlete names, images or likenesses to EA. The NCAA has no involvement in licenses between EA and former student-athletes.
They continued with the following,
Member colleges and universities license their own trademarks and other intellectual property for the video game. They will have to independently decide whether to continue those business arrangements in the future.
Only time will tell just how this lawsuit will affect how college games are created. By NCAA cutting ties with EA it could permit a greater freedom for EA to make deals with conferences, schools and even players.
NCAA Football ’14 will release July 9th for Xbox 360 and PS3.