Once Again From the Top

Disclaimer: While I work for EA, I didn’t at the time of the NFL exclusivity deal and I am so low on the totem pole that I am privy to almost nothing. I’m just a gamer like you.

Why does retarded stuff like this make it to the front page of Joystiq?

How many times do we have to go over this? The NFL, a private organization, initiated the exclusivity deal. They hold their own IP and get to choose how they want to use it. If they feel that managing one licensee is better for their brand than managing three or four uneven licensees, then they may do that. You can throw out words like anti-trust all you wish, but it makes you look like you have no idea what you are talking about. Where is your outrage that only Lucasarts can make Star Wars games? Or that there’s only one company making an Iron Man game? Did you know Nintendo only lets one studio make console Metroid games? Call the FTC.

These arguments love to ignore the fact that EA doesn’t have a monopoly of football games, far from it. Both Blitz: The League and All-Pro Football have come out since the exclusivity deal went into effect and yet the unwashed still clamor for NFL 2k5 when All-Pro Football is a port of it – warts and all.

Then we come to the nonsense about 2K’s $19.99 price point in its last year. Did they do that because they loved their consumers so much that they thought they would cut them a break? No. While critical darlings, 2K was getting their lunch eaten by EA. A price point that low is simply unsustainable. The hope, I imagine, was that the low price point would create a low experimentation cost and folks would try their series and then they could raise the price back up after taking an initial loss. The fact that prices were that low that year was good for gamers that year, but wouldn’t be good long term. It would lead to smaller teams and more frantic dev cycles which would mean less quality features in both products. The jump to next-gen would have been impossible at a bargain-bin price. Imagining a world with fully featured next-gen games for $20 that would have been realized if not for EA’s greedy lawyers is simply a fantasy spun by EA haters or people who simply have no clue at how the industry really works.

It’s like the people that write these articles just landed on the Internet. Have you seen the dramatic chipmunk? It’s a hoot.

So it brings us to the question of is the T2-EA deal a good thing for gamers? It’s hard to tell. On one hand, you have the crooks at the very top of T2. It’s hard to imagine that the subsidiary studios really benefit from their… ahem… creative… accounting. And Take Two’s marketing and distribution machines are nowhere near as dominant as EA’s. Plus, the free capital EA has in its coffers can be a huge advantage if the studios can get them to open up their pockets. If EA gets Take Two, the teams on NHL/NBA will likely find other meaningful industry work leaving us with more variety than when we started.

On the other hand, EA has a very poor track record when it comes to acquisitions. For every success (Tiburon, Criterion, Maxis, DICE) there is a string of disasters for gamers (Origin, Westwood, Bullfrog, &c.,)  So is EA’s new senior management so different that they wouldn’t recreate the sins of the past? I don’t know. I can’t see the future. And it most certainly would mean the cancellation of the 2K NBA/NHL games, which is a bummer if you are a big fan. I’ve played 2K’s NBA game and the best I can say about it is that it isn’t as bad as NBA Live.  Having a fit over losing it is like the store removing the generic Spam from inventory. I guess you could eat regular Spam but there’s a whole supermarket of good food from which to choose.

If you think the EA-T2 merger is the scariest development facing gamers today, then you just aren’t looking hard enough.

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