The programmer of EA Sports’ original Madden NFL Football, Robin Antonick, has won a lawsuit he filed back in 2011 suing the game publisher for unpaid royalties, having alleged that the original code he used to make the game has been recycled in iteration after iteration of Madden. According to a post on GamesIndustry, the courts found that Antonick’s original code for the first Madden title on the computer has been used in all Madden games for the Sega Genesis up through January 1, 1996—and Antonick’s attorney, Stuart Painter, alleges that they’ll continue working to prove that the code has in fact been used for even more games than that.
Said Painter to GamesIndustry:
“Now that we have this liability finding, it’s going to be pretty easy for our expert to link all the other games. We will be sending out new discovery to Electronic Arts, and we’ll be asking for all their source code.”
As to whether or not Electronic Arts may simply settle to avoid further appearances in court, Painter’s doubtful:
“Our experience with EA’s lawyers, especially their in-house lawyers, is what they lack in good legal judgment they make up for in unreasonable stubbornness.”
EA offered its own statement on the matter:
“While we’re disappointed with the jury’s verdict and will appeal, this has always been a case about games from the early 1990s, and it has no impact on today’s Madden NFL franchise.”
As to how much Antonick could win from the judgment, that remains to be seen. The GamesIndustry post says that he could win as much as $9 million after 10 percent interest on royalties owed is factored in, while a post on Kotaku says that the judgment could get him cash starting at $11 million, with the possibility for even more.
For those wondering, Antonick’s work on the original Madden NFL for the computer provided the foundation for the franchise as a whole, as it was his work that allowed the game to feature 22 players on the field. In Part 2 of our All Your History series focused on EA Sports, Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins—who also testified in the Antonick lawsuit—explained the difficulty in getting that many players on-screen at one time:
“Every pixel of collision detection of all 22 players could cause a sensible play to be useless, or a senseless play to be unstoppable. It was like a water bucket full of holes: the water just escaped and all it took was one key flaw to ruin it.
I remember a flaw in punt blocking that allowed every punt to get blocked. But another wrinkle was that if the punter ran a certain way instead of kicking, he could score every time. These flaws need to be solved at a systemic level, but Antonick had trouble building one, and we had to keep putting band-aids on specific plays.”
Eventually, of course, Antonick and the rest of the Madden team at EA managed to make it work, port it over to the Sega Genesis, and birthed what became one of the most enduring and successful video game series in history. It’s unsurprising that Antonick would want to get compensated for that work. We’ll see in the weeks and months to come how much compensation that turns out to be.