The lights are on
This year's entry in the Madden NFL franchise will mark the 25th anniversary of the only (current) licensed professional American football game. EA has had an exclusive hold on the NFL and the Players' Association since 2005's installment, and today's game is markedly different than the original that was released in 1988 on Commodore 64, Commodore 128, Apple II, and MS-DOS computers.
Or is it?
According to the lead designer of the first Madden title, Robin Antonick, present-day versions still utilize the foundational source code he developed. The case has been going on for over two years.
"The case started in 2009 and arose with some information coming to Mr. Antonick's attention that indicated that his game might have actually been the precursor or basis for the other games," Robert Carey, a partner with Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro and Antonick's attorney told Game Informer.
"We had to get source code information from the defendant in order to figure out whether or not Mr. Antonik's information was used. That's the only way you can really tell in these cases if there was any sort of infringement is to look at the source code. We battled a little on that, but we eventually got it. Over the last four or five years, we've had three summary judgement motions brought by EA and they've lost them all. We're now a little over a month out from trial."
Antonik brought his work on a full 11 vs 11 football game to EA, who had previously been unsuccessful in developing one, according to Carey. That code according to Antonick and his attorney was still referenced by people working on the 20th anniversary installment in the series. "What he found out was that one of the people who was very involved in [Antonick's] work at Electronic Arts was very involved with the second version, which was allegedly done independently," Carey explained.
Antonick is seeking damages, alleging that EA used his intellectual property without permission. The contracted royalty rate would be used to determine the value of the use, however according to Carey, it is not necessarily indicative of what Antonick would have negotiated had EA openly used his work.
"It's pretty compelling evidence that [EA] dipped into Mr. Antonick's intellectual property and used it to make the subsequent games, which were allegedly independently created," Carey told us. "If that is true, we've had for the past 20 years is a false narrative about how the whole EA Madden franchise started, was developed, was fostered, and many careers and fortunes have been made out of Madden's NFL glory."
Antonick will have his day in court beginning on June 17, 2013. At that point our understanding of the true history of the Madden franchise may be forever changed. "None of it, if you look at recent articles, has been afforded to Mr. Antonick," Carey explained. "The people that claim to have done it without him simply aren't telling the truth. His work product is all over subsequent source code."
EA declined to provide comment for this story, but company founder Trip Hawkins made his thoughts known in 2011.