The NCAA Football and Madden team reportedly suffer lay offs by EA in another round of layoffs. A meeting was held today at 2pm EST in which an undisclosed amount of employees at the EA Tiburon studio were given notice. The exact amount is still unknown but our sources have told us the layoffs have affected the entire NCAA team and that production of another NCAA title has been delayed indefinitely.
News of the NCAA Football team reportedly laid off brings the relationship between EA Sports and the NCAA, the governing body of collegiate athletics into the limelight again. The two entities have had a tumultuous relationship with different legal spats and lawsuits centering around player likeness and reimbursement to players. The cost of development of the NCAA Football titles was always hampered by these proceedings and it may have finally been too much leading to the lay offs affecting EA today. According to Forbes, the original $20 million lawsuit involved current and former college athletes who sought compensation based on their unauthorized likeness being used in the NCAA franchise produced at EA Tiburon.
The lawsuit stemmed from EA and the Collegiate Licensing Co., which manages the licensing rights for specific universities and the NCAA. The suit stated that the CLC did not "adequately supervise" Electronic Arts in the creation of their NCAA franchise titles according to the Nov. 4 filing in Fulton County, GA as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
As EA Tiburon reportedly lays off the NCAA Football team, it brings an apparent end to the touchy relationship between the NCAA and EA Sports which have had other legal spats through the years on similar cases, most notably the Ed O'Bannon case. The litigation spanned five years, 1,300 related court documents and numerous NCAA attempts to dismiss the lawsuit against them by O'Bannon on the grounds of not being paid for his likeness in the EA games.
With college football head coaches making north of $5 million annually and assistant coaches approaching $1 million, combined with the equally expensive facilities many college athletes have been on record of saying that a full ride and glory are not enough anymore and they want a slice of the pie. The NCAA ended up losing the O'Bannon suit as our own Scott Grill reported on previously on the basis of the NCAA operating as an antitrust.
As a result of the protracted legal tangles, the NCAA video game franchise, most notably the NCAA Football games, were put on an indefinite hold and the teams assigned to the game presumably transferred to Madden or other development teams. NCAA Football 14 was the last title released by the EA Tiburon studio on September 2013 with Denard Robinson gracing the cover.
Polygon interviewed Leonard Aragon, a partner at the law firm and co-counsel for the players involved in the lawsuit. While Aragon did not discuss the amount of the settlement, he did state:
"That's not us. We didn't tell them to do that," said Aragon, when asked to comment on EA's cancellation of next year's college football title. "We would be fine if they published a game."The announcement Polygon referred to came from Cam Webber of EA Sports, who posted on EA's News site after the launch of NCAA Football 14 that no further games were being planned. Two months previous, NCAA had already announced that they would not renew the license with the video game publisher.
Since then there had been no official announcements on the fate of the development team associated with NCAA Football. Now we know that with EA Tiburon laying off the NCAA team, that NCAA Football with EA Sports is mostly dead.
Layoffs at any studio is a known risk for many developers who are not part of the core, or senior staff. A great deal of staff on large video game projects are contract workers who are brought to help the game ship, but then the contract expires or a team is laid off. While not surprising, we are not sure why EA took so long to do this, nor how many people still remained. It is also unclear if this is part of the major restructuring EA is undergoing. Layoffs hit the EA LA and Montreal studios earlier this year as well as the EA Partners Label.
We have reached out to EA Tiburon for comment and will update this story as more details emerge.
UPDATE 2:50pm EST - The new numbers coming out of EA Tiburon show that about 4% of the Madden football team has been let go. NCAA Football development team was merged with Madden after the lawsuit but given the projected time frame of the law suit, EA could not support that many extras on the Madden team until the legal dealings with the NCAA were finished.
Image Source | EA Tiburon