Following its deal with the MLB player’s union, to ensure that the company has the exclusive rights to produce third parties titles featuring authentic player names and licenses, U.S. publisher Take-Two has announced further deals with the MLBPA, MLBP and MLBAM.
Many analysts had questioned the wisdom of Take-Two’s earlier deal as it allowed console manufacturers (i.e. Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft) to obtain their own license – perhaps allowing Electronic Arts and other rivals to continue develop their own games via a back door.
Now, though, representatives from Take-Two have announced a more wide-ranging deal with Major League Baseball Properties (MLBP), the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), and Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM).
Beginning in spring 2006, Take-Two will have the exclusive rights to publish and distribute officially licensed U.S. baseball titles across all formats. With exclusive 'rights to the marks of all 30 Major League Baseball Clubs, MLB players, Major League ballparks and Minor League Baseball Clubs, as well as MLB.com online content, for use in Take-Two's baseball games'.
Although this still does not preclude first party baseball titles, it specifically prevents third party developers from having any involvement. Take-Two’s own statement indicates that "all other third-party publishers and developers are precluded from publishing officially licensed MLB simulation, arcade, and manager style games, either directly or in affiliation with a hardware manufacturer, during the length of the exclusives."
The exact length of the deal has not been revealed, but industry speculation has suggested between seven and eight years – enough to account for the entirety of the next generation of consoles.
The only remaining question is whether Take-Two have paid too much for its exclusivity. Estimates put the original MLBPA deal alone at $80 to $150 million, which some say is high for a sport which is traditionally not as popular as football and basketball in video game form.
One possible counter to this seems to be Take-Two’s intention to produce a greater number of baseball titles each year, with the company planning to release games "year round" and during the "holiday selling season", as well as the start of the baseball season in spring.