Recently the news broke that EA Sports was including concussions in Madden NFL 12 that would force the player suffering them to have to sit out the remainder of the contest. This addition comes amidst the ongoing fight between the NFL and Players Union about player safety and specifically concussions. But is it possible that this new feature of Madden, one the players are in favor of, could cost EA Sports the NFL exclusive license?
For those uninitiated, back more than five years ago, EA bought the NFL exclusive license, giving them access to the NFL teams, logos and players. At the same time, ESPN NFL 2K5, regarded by some (ignorantly) as the best football game of all time, was therefore going to have to wait years to be heard from again. All Pro Football 2K8 tried to revive the franchise but failed. Some would say (incorrectly) that EA has been resting on its laurels since then.
That brings us up to Madden 12. Concussions have been added to this year's version of the game. There has been ongoing controversy within the NFL and through media circles about the NFL's safety policy. Even the NHL, laughing stock of professional sports, aside from the WNBA of course, has a concussion protocol. But Roger Goodell continues to balk on the issue of player safety, instead focusing on suspensions for alleged crimes. And yet Peter King continues to fellate him.
As has been obvious, through luminaries such as Jerry Richardson, the NFL doesn't really care about player safety. They want the issue swept under the rug and forgotten about. Not even the media will do that for them. As more players die prematurely, many by suicide such as Dave Duerson, the issue continues to come more and more into the mainstream. It's even been a sticking point in the ongoing bargaining sessions between the NFL and players. The union and DeMaurice Smith aren't going to settle without this being part of the deal.
And then EA decided to basically go rogue and add concussions into the game. Previously there were only "severe" concussions that would knock a player out for the year. The absence of the more common version stuck out especially as this issue has escalated and become a part of the culture of football. Even Aaron Rodger, probably Madden 12 Cover Boy has suffered these types of concussions. They happen and give credit to EA for sticking their necks out to support the players.
By including this in the game, EA is basically siding with the players and helping to ingrain in the public consciousness the idea of concussions through their pop culture icon of a game. People, they hope, will eventually become so used to seeing players permanently be forced to leave the remainder of the game that they won't question why a player isn't going back in. They hope young fans will now grow up with this culture and just assume that's what happens and neither the owners nor players will suffer if that's the case.
But the owners still don't want this issue coming even more to the forefront. Unfortunately, through acts like this by EA, that's exactly what's happening. The owners, who will determine how long EA keeps this license, are now probably not exactly happy with their sole video game manufacturer and developer. This seems to me to be a salvo to the side of the players union, against the owners.
Once the exclusive NFL license expires in 2013, after being extended one year, there's no telling whether this could impact business at EA. The NFL might just pull up stakes and decide they've had enough of EA despite coming through with a good product every year. This kind of action may just be too much.
This is purely speculation, but while there has been the one year extension through the possibly locked out year and beyond, nobody knows what's going to happen after that. All signals prior to this have shown the league to be happy with what EA Sports has done with Madden. But this is something we've never seen before. The owners are likely to determine whether this license gets extended and with people like the crazy and vindictive Jerry Richardson running the show, who knows what's going to happen.
The fact of the matter is a salvo has been fired by EA towards the players argument. Whether the NFL sees this as something necessary is up for speculation but this probably wasn't the kind of publicity they needed while in heated debates over NFL player safety.
The next move from the NFL regarding this license will be quite telling.