Monday, January 17, 2005

The Great Satan Scores Again

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 17, 2005--Electronic Arts (Nasdaq:ERTS - News) and ESPN today announced a long-term agreement for the development and integrated marketing of EA SPORTS games containing ESPN content. The relationship will include established EA SPORTS franchises -- which will be enhanced by ESPN telecast, print and online content -- as well as new sports games to be published by EA based on ESPN media properties. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The agreement gives EA access to ESPN programming, personalities and integrated marketing opportunities on ESPN television programming and other ESPN properties. The ESPN integration will appear in EA SPORTS console, handheld, PC and wireless games beginning in 2006 upon the conclusion of ESPN's existing video game licensing commitments.

Well, that pretty much clinches it. The Great Satan has officially eliminated any competition in team sports games. There is no chance that the Sega line of team sports games survives the loss of the ESPN license. Baseball this spring will probably still get released, maybe football in the fall, but I doubt that anything else gets released before the entire line gets shut down. And I'm not even confident at this point that we'll see another football game--I'm just hoping.

Why in the world didn't EA just BUY VISUAL CONCEPTS? The ESPN integration is already in their games, and it was excellent, particularly in ESPN NFL. Visual Concepts develops better sports games than EA's existing development houses with fewer resources and lower budgets--why wouldn't you want that combination of talent and efficiency?

Most of the improvements in the Madden series, and EA's other team sports games, came directly as a result of competition. I discussed that in an earlier column. There is now zero incentive for EA to improve anything. The market is theirs.

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