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EA gives up NCAA exclusivity in class-action settlement

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NCAA Football 13 (EA)

If you're sick of playing college football games made solely by EA, you're in luck.

According to a proposed settlement filed by attorneys representing consumers in a class-action anti-trust lawsuit, EA has agreed to give up their stranglehold on the NCAA and AFL (Arena Football League) licenses for five years and will further dole out $27 million for overcharging customers.

First filed back in 2008, the lawsuit essentially claims that EA formed an unfair monopoly by locking in exclusive licenses just as the market was creating lower prices for consumers.

It dates back to the video game football war of 2004, when Take-Two Interactive released Madden competitor NFL 2K5 for a mere $20. The game went on to sell nearly 3 million copies in the U.S., prompting EA to lower the price of Madden 2005 from $50 to $30. Shortly thereafter, EA signed exclusive deals with the NFL, NCAA, and AFL that effectively crippled Take-Two's ability to compete. EA would go on to hike the price of Madden 2006 back up to $50. Not exactly fair play.

According to the proposed settlement, EA will let their exclusive agreement with the NCAA pass in 2014 and won't be allowed to renew it for at least five years, during which time other companies will be free to approach the NCAA about obtaining a license to create games. EA will also agree to waive AFL exclusivity for five years, so all those companies itching to make Arena Football games can have at it.

Gamers will also cash in on the agreement. Anyone who purchased an EA football game (including Madden) for the Gamecube, Playstation 2 or original Xbox could be owed $6.79 per game by the sports giant. Owners of current football games (Xbox 360, Wii, PS3) could score up to $1.95 per game. And before you start going crazy sifting through that box of games in your garage, you're only allowed up to eight games per group. The hows and whens of the payout have yet to be detailed.

So is this the end of EA's virtual pigskin dominance? Hardly. As Kotaku points out, the settlement completely ignores EA's deal with the NFL -- the one that started this mess in the first place. While the end of the NCAA exclusivity deal is notable, it's not exactly a license game makers have been clamoring for. The last non-EA NCAA football game, College Football 2K3, was released in 2003 by -- you guessed it -- Take-Two Interactive.

The proposed settlement still needs to be approved by the courts before it's considered final.

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