The National Football League and its players’ union will reap at least $1.6 billion from their newest extension of the popular “Madden” video game series, according to league sources.
The NFL and its players’ association have finalized multi-year extensions with Electronic Arts Inc., giving the publisher exclusive rights to make a game that simulates gameplay. It means the “Madden” franchise, one of the most popular video game offerings in the world, will now continue through at least 2026.
The players’ share in the deal is worth at least $600 million, according to one of the sources. By the end of the term, the payments may represent a 50% increase over the National Football League Players Association’s (NFLPA) current licensing agreement with EA, said the source, who was granted anonymity because financial terms of the deal are private.
The NFL’s deal, approved via vote by owners on Thursday, is worth more than $1 billion over five years, according to one of the sources.
The deals are mostly cash, but also include marketing obligations and escalators based on game sales, the sources said.
Neither the NFL, the NFLPA nor EA disclosed financial terms.
The union’s take will be divided between the players, the NFLPA and OneTeam Partners, an initiative launched last year by the NFLPA, Major League Baseball Players Association and RedBird Capital. This was the first deal in which OneTeam negotiated on behalf of the NFLPA.
The “Madden” series is one of the most successful video game franchises in the world, having sold more than 130 million copies since its debut in 1988. It’s also become a critical piece of the NFL’s appeal to younger fans, an elusive group for nearly everyone in sports and entertainment.
Though an extension was viewed by many as a foregone conclusion, the NFL and union have broadened their approach to video games in the past few years. That includes a “Fortnite” collaboration and partnerships with a pair of publishers — Nifty Games and Take-Two Interactive — to make new games that don’t mimic realistic gameplay, so they don’t infringe on the “Madden” franchise rights.
Those deals, especially the Take-Two partnership, may have boosted the league’s negotiating position with EA. Back in 2004, EA won exclusive rights to make video games that simulate actual gameplay, a landmark deal that ended Take-Two’s popular “NFL 2K” series. The March agreement led many to speculate about whether Take-Two might once again be trying to make a “Madden” competitor.
(This story has been corrected. The NFL’s share of the EA deal is worth approximately $1 billion over the life of the multiyear agreement, not per year.)