Madden NFL is one of the most successful franchises in video game history but its creator now alleges EA conspired to cheat him out of promised royalties.
Robin Antonick created the 1988 version of Madden released on the Commodore 64, MS Dos and Apple II computers. Antonick was on a developmental contract that promised him royalties from later versions. No one could have foreseen Madden NFL becoming an industry juggernaut, a game that’s become part of the American pop culture fabric. Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledges the game’s impact on the league. In the ’90s, EA replaced Antonick with Park Place Productions as consoles became the means of spreading the Madden gospel. Antonick said EA told him the Sega Genesis game would be arcade based and not use his intellectual property.
EA founder Trip Hawkins told a different story during the celebrations of Madden’s 20th Anniversary in 2009, saying console versions cribbed from the original PC games. After these interviews began appearing everywhere, Antonick filed a lawsuit alleging EA had cheated him. The publisher countered that after 20 years, any claim Antonick should have had would have expired. Antonick argued that EA was untruthful in dealing with him and he only learned how much of his work led to current versions of Madden NFL recently. US District Court Judge Charles Breyer found’s the Madden creator’s arguments compelling enough to continue the legal proceedings. EA was hoping for a dismissal.
Judge Breyer cited a 2009 interview with Trip Hawkins, noting it was “reasonable for the plantiff to become suspicious.” This lawsuit has the potential to cost EA millions of dollars. If Antonick can prove that EA used his work to create the console versions of the bestselling football simulation, he would also have proof the company didn’t stick to the contract and promises of royalties.
The industry will be keeping a watchful eye on this case, to be certain.