EA, NFL extend exclusive partnership that tightens 'Madden' grip on video game market

Terez PaylorSenior NFL writer
Yahoo Sports

Gamers longing to get back to the days when there was fierce competition in the NFL video game market will have to keep on waiting.

That’s because on Thursday, NFL team owners unanimously approved an extension on Electronic Arts’ exclusive rights to publish simulation-style NFL video games through its popular “Madden” franchise. The deal goes to at least 2025, a source confirmed to Yahoo Sports, and will potentially extend through 2026 if revenue markers are hit.

“Our presence in the video game market is very important,” said Brian Rolapp, the NFL’s chief media and business officer. “It’s important to our fans — our fans enjoy it. It’s a way that they can engage with the NFL year-round.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Variety.com reported that the NFL and the players union will make at least $1.6 billion from the deal, which closes the door on another game maker competing against EA in this lucrative corner of the sports gaming world for the start of this decade.

Why did Electronic Arts win exclusive rights?

Electronic Arts has had exclusive rights to sim-style NFL games since 2005, when “Madden 06” was released. By doing so, EA effectively ended its competition against Take-Two Interactive, whose “NFL 2K” franchise was revered among some gamers.

Rolapp said before the league extended its agreement with EA, other companies had an opportunity to jump into the mix. Shared exclusivity was on the table in the competition.

“... EA, really, made the most compelling case and beat out the competition pretty soundly,” Rolapp said.

The deal comes on the heels of the success from the series’ latest edition, “Madden NFL 20,” as unique players have grown by 30 percent year-over-year, monthly average players have reached an all-time high and more than 330 million hours of the game have been played.

“Together, we have a tremendous opportunity to entertain more players through new Madden NFL experiences, games in new genres and on new platforms, esports, and new innovations that will grow fans’ love of the NFL around the world,” Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson said in a statement.

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