EA signs ESPN licensing deal, rolls out new Death Star

After signing an exclusive 5-year deal with the NFL (and an exclusive 4-year deal with the AFL), EA has signed an exclusive 15-year deal with ESPN.

Read all about it over at Kotaku, Video-fenky.

This basically means Sega / Take Two’s ESPN sports games series, the major competition to EA’s cash cow, is in trouble. And it probably means EA will raise their prices again. Which should pleases EA’s shareholders, because the industry didn’t do as well as expected in the US in December 2004 (something worth it’s own blog entry), and that includes EA:

Need for Speed Underground 2 has been a major success for EA, with the title selling 11 per cent ahead of last year’s version, but overall the company’s performance was poor – with dollar sales down 19 per cent year on year, thanks largely to the lower selling prices for its sports titles.

While we’re talking about EA’s recent business dealings, let us not forget EA bought Criterion last year, and they’ve gotten a lot of bad press over the way they treat their employees.

And while referring to the purchase of a large stake in Ubisoft that many people, especially people at Ubisoft, consider a hostile move, EA Europe boss Gerhard Florin said:

"That’s not hostile," he concluded. "In our industry, one doesn’t make hostile moves because our value lies with people."

The latter comment seems disingenuous. Many of EA’s decisions make sense, at least as business decisions, and in the short term. But EA’s reputation, never that great to begin with, is now rapidly going down the drain. They’re becoming the evil empire of our industry.

Should they care? Maybe. More about that later.

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