Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The NFL, the Supreme Court,&Video Games?

Listen up sports fans: we’ve got a story for you straight out of left field. And we promise the sports metaphors will end right here. Now.
As Mike Florio reported in an article on, the Supreme Court announced today that it will listen to arguments as to whether the NFL’s 32 teams count as separate or a single entity with regards to marketing deals. To simplify, the question the Supreme Court will try to answer is whether the NFL has the right to make blanket decisions for all of the league’s teams, or whether the owners of individual teams should be able to work out deals themselves. Wait, was that any simpler to understand?
Let’s just get right to the point that interests us: video games. For years now, EA Sports have enjoyed an exclusive deal with the NFL that gives them sole rights to portraying players, team names, and logos in video-game form, making the Madden series the only place for NFL fans to turn to for a realistic and up-to-date football video game. If the Supreme Court rules that each team has the right to negotiate their own terms for how their team is marketed, however, it would not only destroy that agreement, but possibly the entire Madden series.
What happens if some teams sign an agreement for a game and others don’t, or sign instead with another competing franchise (*cough* NFL2K *cough*)? Or what if a team just demands more money than the developer is willing to pay? Would you have real teams playing against imaginary ones? How would it affect the rosters, if developers couldn’t include the real names and stats of players? When Sega lost the right to use NFL teams in the 2K series, it killed the franchise – despite having always received great reviews. What would happen if no company could secure a full roster of teams?
And the ruling could affect not just the NFL; no doubt owners in the NBA, NHL, MLB, and pretty much any other team-based sport are waiting to see the precedent that this case will set. And as far as we can tell, no other industry could be affected by the outcome more than the video game industry: people who buy Nike or Gatorade aren’t going to care if only some sports teams endorse their product ­­– but no gamer is going to want to buy a game that’s missing half of the league.
However, the case hasn’t even started yet, and the Supreme Court’s ruling will probably go in favor of the NFL, so there’s no reason to jump the gun. Wait, that’s a track and field metaphor; looks like our use of sports metaphors went just into overtime – we’re calling a flagrant foul on this article and sending it to the locker room… metaphorically speaking.
Be sure to check out Florio’s article for a more in-depth look at the issue, and a history lesson in previous NFL court cases.

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