SBD/June 5, 2012/Media

EA Sports, UFC Announce Video Game License After Years Of Public Feuding

White in '09 accused EA Sports of saying MMA was not a real sport
EA Sports yesterday announced at the E3 conference in L.A. that it has acquired a multiyear, multi-title video game license from UFC, snatching the MMA property's intellectual property from rival publisher THQ. The deal ends several years of often bad blood between UFC and EA Sports, during which UFC President Dana White in '09 said he was "at war" with the publisher. White had accused EA Sports of saying MMA was not a real sport and irrelevant, a charge EA Sports strongly denied. White's public anger toward EA Sports nonetheless continued well into last year, and on several occasions he also verbally attacked the earning reports of EA Sports parent Electronic Arts. "I personally don't know what went on back on then, but this deal is a major long-term, global play for us," said EA Sports Exec VP Andrew Wilson. "I have found UFC to be nothing but consummate professionals and absolutely amazing to work with. We have big plans to grow together." White appeared on stage with Wilson during EA Sports' presentation yesterday at E3. No details, however, were disclosed on specific forthcoming titles or projected release schedules in the deal. THQ previously produced three versions of "Undisputed" as part of its UFC deal, generally scoring better critical and retail acclaim than EA Sports' "MMA" title, developed through licensing deals with individual MMA fighters. Financial terms of the new deal were not disclosed. But THQ, electing to focus on its core suite of games, received an undisclosed cash payment from EA to exit the remaining term of its UFC deal. THQ, meanwhile, is planning to shut down its San Diego development studio as part of the license shift.

MADDEN REWORKED: EA Sports yesterday at E3 also announced a reworked social gaming strategy for "Madden NFL," disclosing plans for a new "Madden NFL Social" on Facebook sometime this fall. The effort seeks to build on the publisher's first football foray in the space, "Madden NFL Superstars," which did not generate significant traction, in part through its focus on digital card collecting. "The social gaming space is moving very fast, and it's our mission to deliver authentic gameplay experiences on that platform. We know this has to be a 'beat-you' game, really focused on competition against your buddy, as opposed to a collecting game," Wilson said. EA Sports also appeared as part of Microsoft's separate E3 presentation, showing more detail to previously disclosed plans to make EA Sports' "Madden NFL" and "FIFA" titles compatible with the Kinect motion sensor (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

X MARKS THE SPOT: ESPN and Microsoft yesterday announced they have expanded their relationship for ESPN on Xbox LIVE to add WatchESPN as part of the service. The extended agreement will deliver authenticated versions of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU and ESPN Buzzer Beater/Goal Line to Xbox LIVE Gold members who receive their video subscription from Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Verizon FiOS TV or Comcast Xfinity TV (ESPN). Xbox also announced deals with the NBA and NHL. Xbox already offers MLB.tv (CABLEFAX DAILY, 6/5). In Portland, Allan Brettman notes Nike announced a partnership with Microsoft for an Xbox product called "Nike+ Kinect Training." Nike VP/Digital Sport Stefan Olander said that with the program, personal trainers "work with the user to assess their physical strengths, identify areas for improvement and create a personalized workout." He added, despite the partnership, Nike was "not really getting into gaming." Brettman notes Nike's electronics partner "has always been Apple Inc.," but now, the company "has a dual relationship with Microsoft" (Portland OREGONIAN, 6/5).
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