Judge Calls $27M a Fair Price for EA Monopoly

     OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - Electronic Arts can settle antitrust claims by paying $27 million and releasing exclusivity rights to league-branded football video games, a federal judge ruled.
     After granting preliminary approval of the settlement Friday, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken scheduled a fairness hearing for Feb. 7, 2013.
     In 2008, lead plaintiffs Geoffrey Pecover and Jeffrey Lawrence claimed that EA killed off competing football video games by partnering with the National Football League, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Collegiate Licensing Co. and the Arena Football League.
     By monopolizing the market for these games, EA was free to hike up the prices of its own games and gouge customers, according to the complaint.
     EA denied the allegations as well as any wrongdoing, eventually filing the joint settlement on July 20, 2012.
     The agreement bars the Redwood City, Calif.-based developer from renewing its exclusive NCAA and CLC football licenses for at least five years after they expire in 2014. EA must also refrain from grabbing exclusive rights to the AFL for five years.
     The settlement will not affect EA's exclusive licensing with the NFL, even though the "Madden NFL" video game was central to the original lawsuit.
     The $27 million settlement fund will go to consumers who purchased "Madden NFL," "NCAA Football" or "American Football League" games published between Jan. 1, 2005, and June 21, 2012.
     Consumers are entitled to up to $6.79 for games released for play on the XBox, Playstation 2, PC or GameCube platforms. Those who purchased titles released for play on the XBox 360, Playstation 3 or Wii platorms can claim up to $1.95 per game.
     Prospective class members must submit their claims by March 5, 2013.
     Members who want to opt out and keep their right to sue EA separately about the same legal claims must do so by Dec. 10, 2012.