EA continues sports assault with exclusive AFL deal

More football exclusivity as EA ties up with fast-growing league.

Leading publisher Electronic Arts has announced an exclusive deal to develop games based on the Arena Football League, which sees the company sewing up the rights to the popular and fast-growing American sport.

The move will see the creation of a new AFL title in the EA Sports line-up, joining other football franchises Madden, NFL Street and NCAA, with the first title due to hit the market before the 2006 AFL season starts in a year's time.

The four-year exclusive deal isn't just a straight licensing arrangement, however; EA not only receives the rights to create games based on the AFL, it also wins a financial interest in the league, with the game publisher due to receive a cut of proceeds from future expansion.

Of course, while signing the AFL - whose games are played on smaller pitches and with fewer players than its larger rivals - is a coup for EA, it's still small fry compared to the company's recent controversial signing of an exclusive licensing deal with the NFL, the country's largest American Football league.

Following the announcement of the NFL deal in December, strong rumours emerged suggesting that the company had also been in negotiation with the NBA over a similar exclusive, but was rejected by the basketball league - a claim with EA denies, saying that it has never approached the NBA with such an offer.

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