One of the most successful video game franchises in history and an annual cash cow for Electronic Arts, Madden NFL Football’s original creator, Robin Antonick, has made the decision to sue to major publisher for tens of millions of dollars in royalties. With the added financial pressure of the possibility that there will not be an NFL season this year, the added stress of an enormous lawsuit will likely be enough to significantly affect EA in the long run.
The Madden franchise has sold more than 85 million copies in the 20 years since it hit the market. Antonick reportedly signed a contract with Electronic Arts in 1986 that entitles him to royalties on derivative versions of the series.
Antonick, an Illinois-native, was given royalty checks from EA for five years in total. Though he has remained quiet for some time, the developer hasn’t received any payment since approximately 1992. Now, he has been forced to turn to the courts to take on the video game goliath.
Why exactly did Antonick wait 23 years to sue Electronic Arts? Only learning recently that derivative titles in the series borrowed from the original’s source code, and thus he has a legal basis for asking for compensation.
Officially, the complaint reads:
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. Instead, according to recent statements by Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, the current generation of software apparently derived from software developed by Antonick.
The original version of the game was created to run on the Commodore 64, MS DOS, and Apple II platforms and was released in 1988. In the early 1990s, EA began to move the franchise onto other platforms without Antonick’s approval, notably the expansion onto the Sega Genesis.
Though EA could not be immediately reached for a comment, executives at the publisher are likely squirming at the possibility of losing a massive amount of money. Additionally, EA has been sued over Madden in the past. In August, just before the release of Madden NFL 2011, Tony Davis sued EA on behalf of six thousand retired players for using their likenesses in the 2009 version of the game without commission.
What do you, football fans and video game enthusiasts alike, believe? Is Electronic Arts in the wrong here? Is Robin Antonick just being greedy? Sound off in the comments below.