Video game creator sues company for billions

Fri Apr 1, 2011 2:18pm EDT

The video game ''Madden NFL '09'' is projected on a wall at the Madden NFL ’09 VIP Premiere party in Los Angeles, California August 7, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

The video game ''Madden NFL '09'' is projected on a wall at the Madden NFL ’09 VIP Premiere party in Los Angeles, California August 7, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

Related Topics

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The man who created the first version of the uber-successful "Madden NFL Football" video game is suing Electronic Arts over tens of millions of dollars in owed royalties and potentially billions in profits over the franchise, which has sold more than 85 million copies in the more than 20 years since it hit the marketplace.

As real-life professional football experiences a work stoppage thanks to disagreements between owners and players over how to split the revenue pie, now the game of football in digital form is experiencing its own financial quarrel.

Robin Antonick is demanding a jury trial in California, pressing claims in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that he has been cut out of the "Madden" franchise fortune.

Antonick, an Illinois native, says he created the ground-breaking football video game, giving game players the chance to simulate a football game with eleven players on the field for each team.

The first versions of the game were created for the Commodore 64, MS Dos, and Apple II platforms and released in 1988. He says he developed the game both with programing expertise and knowledge of former Oakland Raiders head coach John Madden's behavior in calling plays in certain game situations.

He signed a development contract with EA in 1986 that allegedly entitles Antonick to royalties on derivative versions of the "Madden" game. In the years afterward, he worked on the game in a cubicle a few feet away from Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, he says.

The game has grown much more sophisticated and real over the years -- recently, for example, the game adopted rules preventing game players from reinserting players who experience concussions -- but according to Antonick, it's still based on his game.

"Only recently, as a result of publicity surrounding the 20th Anniversary of the 'Madden' videogame did Antonick become aware that Electronic Arts did not independently develop subsequent versions of its Madden NFL software," says the complaint. "Instead, according to recent statements by Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, the current generation of software apparently derived from software developed by Antonick."

Antonick is seeking tens of millions of owed royalties, plus disgorgement of all profits from the sale of the game as the result of allegedly fraudulent behavior. The game franchise has reaped more than $4 billion in profits over the years.

The creator has remained quiet for some time. He says he hasn't received a royalty payment since approximately 1992.

In the early 1990s, EA began to take steps to franchise the game to other platforms, starting with a Sega Genesis in 1990, and licensed versions without Antonick's approval.

The plaintiff says he didn't know at the time that "Electronic Arts decided that it did not want to share profits with him even though he was responsible for the development of virtually all of the ground-breaking technology at the heart of the game."

Over the past couple years, EA and Antonick are said to have engaged in confidential settlement negotiations.

EA couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

(Editing by Zorianna Kit)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (4)
LouannO wrote:
If he wrote the software that is still being used, he should get paid for it.

Apr 01, 2011 7:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Shikari wrote:
Hmm.. it’s going to be very technical. If EA can prove their code/logic/algorithms are implemented substantially differently then they can deflect the suit.

Apr 01, 2011 7:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
FarmerBob wrote:
I love how people come out of the woodwork years, many in this case, after something becomes popular for their cut. Where have you been all this time?

Apr 01, 2011 9:28pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.