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EA faces class action suit over Madden

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Madden NFL 11 - EA

If you've bought a copy of Madden or NCAA Football in the
past six years, you might have found an interesting email in your in-box over
the last few days.

A pair of disgruntled gamers have filed a class action suit
against Electronic Arts over the games, accusing the publisher of overcharging
customers and stifling competition, via its exclusivity agreement with the NFL,
NFL Players Association and other leagues. .

While class action suits are filed all the time - and often
disappear in a poof of dust - a federal judge recently certified this case,
allowing it to keep its class action status. That means pretty much anyone who
bought either of the games from 2005 through today (or the Arena Football League
games that floundered in 2006 and 2007) could be eligible for damages, should
the courts rule against EA.

(You're out of luck, though, if you bought a used copy or a
mobile phone version or bought directly from EA. Naturally, if you work at EA,
you're excluded as well. Full details are available at the plaintiff's website.)

The crux of the argument goes something like this: Before EA
and the NFL signed their exclusivity agreement, 2K Sports launched a price war,
pricing ESPN NFL 2K5 at $20. EA was then forced to quickly drop that year's
Madden price to $30.

At the time, EA's management said it would take any
necessary steps to protect the Madden franchise - then shocked everyone by
signing the NFL deal. Once that was done, prices jumped back to the $50-$60
range and have stayed there ever since.

Take-Two, in 2004, had some harsh things to say about the
deal.

"We believe that the decisions ... do a tremendous
disservice to the consumers ... limiting their choices, curbing creativity and
almost certainly leading to higher game prices," it said in a statement.

EA hasn't made any public comments about the class
certification of the suit, but in a 2009 response to the original filing, it
said it "affirmatively denies"
violating any antitrust or unfair
competition laws.

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