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Samit Sarkar avatar 2:25 PM on 02.12.2008  (server time)
Sports games and exclusivity deals: a different take

As fellow c-blogger B-Radicate reported earlier, EA has extended their video game exclusivity agreement with the NFL by three years. It was originally slated to expire in 2009, but now, EA has locked up the license through 2012. Most people seem to think that this deal means that the apocalypse is imminent, but I don’t necessarily agree. Read on, friends, read on...


No, this is not what Madden NFL 09 will look like

I’ve always been a fan of EA Sports titles over 2K Sports games — I just like the way they “feel” and control. In general, however, I hate the idea of exclusivity; it stifles creativity and allows developers to rest on their laurels, year after year. (Aside: I was thinking of doing a “Good Idea, Bad Idea” on exclusivity agreements, but I realized that I couldn’t find anything good to say about them.) 2K Sports owns the baseball license, and I really didn’t like Major League Baseball 2K7 (in fact, I’m much more interested in Sony’s MLB 08: The Show this year). But I absolutely loved EA’s last baseball game, MVP Baseball 2005 on the PS2, and it’s a damn shame that they can’t make them anymore.



Now, it’s important to note something that Peter Moore mentioned in his interview with IGN: he said that it was the NFL who originally looked into having an exclusive deal with a publisher, and EA just turned out to be the highest bidder. Is that their fault? No. That’s capitalism, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Much of the blame should be placed on the sports themselves — that is, the NFL and the MLB — for offering an exclusivity deal in the first place. But EA’s not innocent, of course; what is wrong with EA is the Madden games that they’ve put out since the deal went into effect, which have all been largely lackluster titles compared to the pre-exclusivity games.

Of course, I’m at a special disadvantage as a PS3 owner; the 360 versions of Madden games have been serviceable, but the PS3 ports have been a different story altogether. The week before Madden NFL 08 came out on August 14, 2007, Best Buy was offering a deal: pre-order Madden, and get $10 off any other regularly-priced game. So I pre-ordered it and got Warhawk (which wasn’t to be released for another two weeks) for $49.99. But I saw the error of my ways (or rather, EA’s ways) after I had the game in my hands. IGN gave the 360 version an 8.7 in their review, but the PS3 version of the game was scored a full point lower, a 7.7 out of 10. I read through both reviews in their entirety, and the only difference between them was the mention of the graphical shortcomings of the PS3 version of the game. After playing the game myself a few times and being disgusted, I put it aside on my shelf, and in December, I got rid of it for a measly 650 Goozex points.

So what I’m essentially saying is this: I wouldn’t fault EA and 2K Sports as much for their respective exclusivity deals if they just made good games. Is that so much to ask? And if you have to, use the PS3 as the lead platform for development (or at least start development on the PS3 version earlier). There’s absolutely no excuse at this point for either of the versions to have any major graphical or gameplay inadequacies, and that was the case with both Madden NFL 08 and MLB 2K7. In any case, at least I have an alternative for baseball: 2K Sports’ exclusivity deal only covers third-party games, so SCEA is free to develop their own baseball video game. I eagerly anticipate MLB 08: The Show, and I definitely have some interest in Madden NFL 09, though after last year’s shenanigans, that interest is lukewarm. Make me believe again, EA...that’s all I want...

 
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