The programmer of the first Madden game has successfully sued EA for $11 million in damages for unpaid royalties from subsequent sequels.
Robin Antonick programmed the original John Madden Football, which released on the Apple II computer in 1988. According to a contract he signed with EA in 1986, EA had to pay him royalties, not just for the original game but also "on any derivative works related to the original version of EA Madden".
Antonick claimed that the subsequent seven Madden sequels up to Madden NFL 96 "were virtually identical to the original version" and "used substantially similar plays and formations".
Antonick argued that the sequels were derivative works of the original and that he should have received royalties as a result, which after interest worked out at $11 million (£7,175,000).
On Tuesday, a US District Court in the Northern District of California decided after three days of deliberation that Antonick was correct, and that EA should pay the outstanding royalties.
A further phase of the trial will now take place to determine whether Antonick is also eligible for royalties on games published between 1997 and the present, when the series went from sprite-based to polygonal graphics. Revenues for these games exceed £3 billion, so if the court finds in favour of Antonick his royalties could be far greater than the $11 million already owed to him.
The lawsuit was first made public in April 2011, when Antonick claimed that "Electronic Arts decided that it did not want to share profits with him even though he was responsible for the development of virtually all of the ground-breaking technology at the heart of the game".