Wednesday was a big day for the O'Bannon plaintiffs taking on the NCAA in the athlete likeness trial, but the day was just as important for video gamers. EA executive Joel Linzner took the stand for the plaintiffs and said that he would like to bring back the EA college football video games, which were discontinued because of the lawsuit.
Linzer said EA Sports would be interested in re-entering college football video game market if all licenses could be acquired.— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) June 18, 2014
EA discontinued the game, because it was being sued for not paying players whose likenesses were used in the game and couldn't pay them because NCAA rules didn't allow it. EA then settled for $40 million.
The company apparently lobbied the NCAA to change its rules, and even asked to pay the players, but the NCAA didn't allow it.
Said No. 1 request from consumers was for player names and likenesses in college games.— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) June 18, 2014
Linzner said EA made "long, sustained effort" to get schools and NCAA to allow use of athlete name and image but did not succeed— Steve Berkowitz (@ByBerkowitz) June 18, 2014
Linzer: "We wanted to make our college-themed video games as authentic as possible."— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) June 18, 2014
Linzer said that game brought in $80 million a year in revenue. Not being published b/c of current litigation.— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) June 18, 2014
In order to win the case, the NCAA needs to prove that there is no market for the use of athletes' likenesses. Obviously, this severely hurts that argument, since EA showed it was willing — and currently wants to — pay for those likenesses.
This means gamers who want the games to return should be feeling very good about those chances, because not only did Linzner say he'd like to bring the game back into production, he also severely damaged the legal justification for the NCAA's rules that currently aren't allowing the company to do so.