SBD/Issue 16/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Picking Up The Blitz: “OTL” Examines Controversial Videogame

Midway’s “Blitz” Not Bound By NFL License
Yesterday’s edition of ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” examined the videogame “Blitz: The League” by Midway Games, which does not own the rights to NFL logos or players. ESPN’s Kelly Naqi said the game “isn’t bound by NFL restrictions, and they’re taking full advantage, even at the expense of one of the league’s top players. In the ‘Blitz’ game, a quarterback for the Redhawks bears a remarkable resemblance to (Falcons QB) Michael Vick: he‘s black, agile, strong-armed, left-handed and wears No. 7. But this player is named Mike Mexico, similar to Ron Mexico, a name Vick allegedly used as an alias, according to a lawsuit against him filed by a woman in March.” The game’s writer, Peter Egan, who also worked ESPN’s “Playmakers,” said Midway is trying to “do something that no other game does, which is mimic what we have seen in some of the newspapers and television about players (and) about the lifestyle.” Pro football HOFer Lawrence Taylor, who provided the voice for “Blitz” character Quentin Sands and is the game’s cover athlete, said of the violent content in the game: “It’s rated ‘M’ for mature, so it’s not like the NFL product, which is rated ‘E’ (for everyone). And to sit there and say, ‘Well, you know, these things don’t go on,’ then it should be rated ‘S’ for stupid, because (bleep) happens”

DISCUSSION POINTS: A roundtable with EA Sports Dir of Marketing for Pro Football Games Jordan Edelstein, Electronic Gaming Monthly News Editor Bryan Intihar and former NFLer Ray Buchanan followed Naqi’s report. EA Sports holds the exclusive rights to NFL marks and player likenesses in the videogame category, and when asked how close “Blitz” is to the actual NFL, Edelstein said, “That’s something for the NFL really to judge.” ESPN’s Bob Ley interrupted Edelstein by saying, “You must have an opinion on this.” Edelstein: “You can hear the outrage from (Buchanan) in terms of some of it is a little close to the NFL and the NFL players.” Electronic Gaming Monthly News Editor Bryan Intihar on the competition “Blitz” poses to EA Sports’ “Madden” franchise: “I actually think there’s room for both games. Every kid is always going to want to play ... their favorite players on the football field. That’s why there’s Madden. ... But there’s also part of the segment that doesn’t really care about that and likes the more over-the-top type action, and that’s what ‘Blitz’ is designed for. It’s over-the-top for a reason. It has to attract a new consumer” (“Outside The Lines,” ESPN, 10/2).

Analysts Do Not See
“Blitz” Challenging EA’s “Madden”
COMPETITION: Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter said, “I really don’t think guys who like football simulation games (like Madden) are going to want to play a game that has a bunch of characters who are no-name players. ... My confidence level in sell-through for (Blitz) is low.” DFC Intelligence analyst David Cole added, “I don’t see Blitz as a big threat [to ‘Madden’]. I think (Midway) will face a pretty uphill battle.” Midway CEO David Zucker agreed that Blitz is not going to outsell Madden, but said, “I think it will surprise people” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/2).

HE’S GOT GAME: ABC’s John Madden, on his EA video game, “I do play it myself a little. I’m not very good. I really get more out of watching other people playing it. I am heavily involved in what we do with it each year. The plays, the defenses, the changes, all of that” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/3). Madden, on NFL players’ comments on their characters in the game: “I get all these complaints from players. Gotta give me more juice. Gotta give me more power!” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/3).

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Atlanta Falcons, EA Sports, NFL

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