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The man who created the first version of the uber-successful Madden NFL Football video game is suing Electronic Arts over tens of millions of dollars in owed royalties and potentially billions in profits over the franchise, which has sold more than 85 million copies in the more than 20 years since it hit the marketplace.
As real-life professional football experiences a work stoppage thanks to disagreements between owners and players over how to split the revenue pie, now the game of football in digital form is experiencing its own financial quarrel. Robin Antonick is demanding a jury trial in California, pressing claims in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that he has been cut out of the Madden franchise fortune.
Antonick, an Illinois native, says he created the ground-breaking football video game, giving game players the chance to simulate a football game with eleven players on the field for each team. The first versions of the game were created for the Commodore 64, MS Dos, and Apple II platforms and released in 1988. He says he developed the game both with programming expertise and knowledge of former Oakland Raiders head coach John Madden‘s behavior in calling plays in certain game situations.
He signed a development contract with EA in 1986 that allegedly entitles Antonick to royalties on derivative versions of the Madden game. In the years afterward, he worked on the game in a cubicle a few feet away from Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, he says.
The game has grown much more sophisticated and real over the years — recently, for example, the game adopted rules preventing game players from reinserting players who experience concussions — but according to Antonick, it’s still based on his game.
“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,” says the complaint. “Instead, according to recent statements by Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, the current generation of software apparently derived from software developed by Antonick.”
Antonick is seeking tens of millions of owed royalties, plus disgorgement of all profits from the sale of the game as the result of allegedly fraudulent behavior. The game franchise has reaped more than $4 billion in profits over the years.
The creator has remained quiet for some time. He says he hasn’t received a royalty payment since approximately 1992.
In the early 1990s, EA began to take steps to franchise the game to other platforms, starting with a Sega Genesis in 1990, and licensed versions without Antonick’s approval. The plaintiff says he didn’t know at the time that “Electronic Arts decided that it did not want to share profits with him even though he was responsible for the development of virtually all of the ground-breaking technology at the heart of the game.”
Over the past couple years, EA and Antonick are said to have engaged in confidential settlement negotiations.
“The complaint and its 20 year-old claim are utterly without merit,” says EA spokesperson Tiffany Steckler. Regarding the alleged settlement negotations, she adds, “We never offered to pay Antonick a penny.”
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