It looks like Ed O’Bannon gets to chalk up a victory for him and his class action lawsuit against EA Sports and the NCAA. According to ESPN and Gamespot, the NCAA has decided not to renew their contract to produce video games using the NCAA name and likenesses. It means that NCAA Football 14, the most recent edition released this month, will be the last of the series for the time being. It turns out that the potential lawsuit started by O’Bannon has presented itself as an obstacle to continuing the relationship between the video game maker and collegiate body without incurring more wrath financially and legally from others.
For those that don’t remember, Ed O’Bannon was a former college basketball player that was frustrated with seeing his likeness in video games and other licensed products from the NCAA and was not getting paid for it. So, like any American would, he sued both EA and NCAA for lost royalties and licensing profits. Other former student athletes followed suit and the grand total they believe stands at billions of dollars that need to be paid out to them. The video game part of it plays a major part in it as we gamers know that the names are NEVER used in the game but the numbers, height, weight, speed, strength, and how they play are put exactly in the game even as they lack an identifying marker. Some people even go as far as just renaming the players to the original name just to have the full experience. Obviously, this is a hotly debated part playing out in the legal system as we speak.
What does this mean for us gamers? Well, that copy of NCAA Football 14 with Denard Robinson on the cover? That’s the last game you’ll see with any NCAA likeness and names in a game from EA. Now, there’s still going to be a college football game for next year from EA Sports, most likely to be called College Football 15. They still are able to partner with the Collegiate Licensing Co. in order to include teams and leagues so we won’t see the game completely using NAIA teams or community colleges not affiliated with the NCAA. They just have to negotiate with each team and league individually in order to get them included in the game. There have been talks to have one featured team such as an Alabama or Ohio State to represent the game as powerhouses to help overcome the loss of the big license but that remains to be seen.
What we can probably see from here on in is even more generic football players that won’t look like the players or resemble them by number or likeness, so as to not throw gas on the fire. The NCAA is obviously spooked by this lawsuit and wants to get away from EA Sports, who continue to put players in the game that resemble the underclassmen. They don’t want to get into deeper hot water so they’ve decided to cut their losses and move on and see how this legal dilemma plays out. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how this will affect games. While not as big as Madden, the NCAA games still represents a good portion of the EA Sports cash cow and if there’s a lot of changes coming to the games, it just might be time for them to cut their losses too.