EA won't pay arms manufacturers for licensed digital replicas of their guns and war paraphernalia in its action games - Battlefield 4 - this year. But it will use them anyway.
EA is asserting a constitutional free speech right to use the trademarks without permission. "We're telling a story and we have a point of view. A book doesn't pay for saying the word Colt, for example," EA's Frank Gibeau told Reuters.
EA has been licensing guns for donkey's years in its games, and Simon Parkin investigated this deep and dark relationship between guns and games for Eurogamer in an extensive article at the start of the year.
But deals that used to involve relatively little money and participation from either side became gradually more involved, until last year they reached a kind of fever pitch with Medal of Honor, which linked to branded real world weaponry from its website - you could buy a Medal of Honor tomahawk, for instance, and the internet went mental.
"We won't do that again," senior spokesperson Jeff Brown added to Reuters. "The action games we will release this year will not include licensed images of weapons."
Then followed the terrible Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December, and video games faced the ire of even the National Rifle Association in the US.
Gun manufacturers wouldn't talk to Reuters about what EA's stance means going forwards, but the position is already being tested by aircraft manufacturer Bell Helicopter, which hit EA with a cease and desist for its unlicensed depiction of aircraft in Battlefield 3. EA pre-emptively sued Bell Helicopter's parent company Textron in retaliation, citing the First Amendment.
Activision, which uses branded weaponry in Call of Duty, wouldn't comment.