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A federal judge has rejected video game publisher Electronics Arts’ attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed against it by the creator of Madden NFL.
Robin Antonick developed the first version of EA’s popular football game for the Commodore 64, MS DOS, and Apple II platforms in the 1980s, according to a complaint filed in a California district court. The complaint claims he’s been “unlawfully deprived” of millions of dollars in royalty payments on any derivative works related to that original game, including current annual releases.
The case is scheduled to go to trial on June 17. GamesBeat has contacted EA for comment.
In a 1983 contract, EA allegedly agreed to pay Antonick a 5 percent royalty on any games the publisher created based on his work. The case alleges EA has avoided paying up for decades by saying the Madden sequels were independently developed. However, the suit claims EA founder Trip Hawkins recently admitted the current generation of Madden games are derived from Antonick’s software. The suit also says Hawkins and other EA developers had “extensive access and thorough knowledge” of Antonick’s code and used it to create the publisher’s supposedly independently developed version of the game.
In a 2011 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Hawkins, who left EA in 1991, disputed Antonick’s story. He said Antonick was just one of many people working on Madden, not the person driving the game. He also told the Times Antonick was a work-at-home contractor who didn’t share office space with other EA employees, as Antonick’s lawsuit claims, and that he wasn’t recommissioned to help program future 16-bit versions of Madden because the company needed developers with “more advanced” programming skills.
Madden is one of the video game industry’s best-selling franchises. It’s sold more than 85 million copies for more than $3 billion in total sales.