This Day in Gaming History: Electronic Arts and ESPN Settle Their Differences
October 27, 1992
After weeks of legal squabbling regarding Electronic’Arts’ use of the ESPN parody “EASN”, the two media giants came to terms out of court.
During the early 1990’s nearly all sports games made by Electronic Arts were presented in-game by the fake sports network “Electronic Arts Sports Network”, or EASN, an on-the-nose parody of the real life ESPN television channel. Games under this banner attempted to emulate the look of a sports broadcast instead of a video game.
EASN games would be hosted by early 90s sports commentators such as John Madden, Ron Barr, and Bing Gordon. The distinguished sportscasters would give a rundown of the player’s sports match before playing. These informative comments were complimented by displays of team and player statistics. User controlled instant replays were also employed to add another layer of immersion to the games.
EA continued to use the brand through to 1992, until ESPN’s lawyers found the name “EASN” to be a little too close to the spelling and appearance of their company’s name. The trademark dispute was settled out of court only a few weeks later, with EA agreeing to change the name of their sports division to EA Sports, the name it currently uses to this day.
A former EA employee would later reveal that ESPN returned the favor by promoting the then-new EA Sports brand in their commercials. Endorsement by such a high profile sports entity would add a level of legitimacy to EA Sports that couldn’t be obtained otherwise.
So, was ESPN right to claim “Electronic Arts Sports Network” as trademark infringement? What do you think of EA’s early sports games? Does the first Madden still hold up?
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Eric Hall2218 Posts
Phone-browsing Wikipedia in one hand and clutching his trusty controller in the other, the legendary Eric Hall spreads his wealth of knowledge as a writer for Don't Feed the Gamers. Be sure to catch his "Throwback Thursday" segment for a nostalgic look at trivia from the past.