Don’t Call it a Comeback: The Return of College Football Video Games and the Impact of O’Bannon v. NCAA

[Jacob Conners, Contributing Member 2020-2021, Intellectual Property and Computer Law Journal]


            “EA Sports. It’s in the game.”[1] The famous words in the title sequence of every EA Sports video game have proven untrue for college football players since July 2013, the release date of NCAA Football 14.[2] College football players have not been “in the game” since EA Sports discontinued the video game on September 26, 2013.[3] Cam Weber, the General Manager of American Football at EA Sports, released a statement announcing the discontinuation citing that EA Sports was “stuck in the middle of a dispute between the NCAA and student-athletes who seek compensation for playing college football.”[4] Mr. Weber also distinctly pointed out that EA Sports had always followed the rules set forth by the NCAA while also complying with the law.[5] The disputes culminated in the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision of O’Bannon v. NCAA.[6] Many blamed Ed O’Bannon and the O’Bannon lawsuit for ending the video game, while others put all the blame on the NCAA.[7] No matter who they blamed, college football and video games fans were thrilled and relieved following the announcement that EA Sports would be bringing back the well-known college football game in early February 2021.[8] The video game’s return will show how name, image, and likeness (“NIL”) lawsuits have changed the outlook of collegiate athletics. Furthermore, the ever-growing fraction of intellectual property law in NIL becomes more relevant each year with the continual increase in NCAA sports television coverage.[9] Massive television deals have been signed for up to twelve years into the future and have become even more crucial with the lost revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic.[10]

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