NBA's five-way licensing deal

EA, Take Two, Midway, Sony and Atari all get five to six year licenses.

At least one major American sporting league has opted out of the current trend for exclusively tying themselves to a games publisher, with the NBA today announcing that it has signed new deals with no fewer than five publishers.

The basketball league has granted licenses which are believed to extend for five to six years to Electronic Arts, Take Two, Midway, Sony and Atari, all of whom are existing partners of the organisation.

The deal comes in the wake of the NFL's decision to sign up exclusively with Electronic Arts just before Christmas, which was followed by an exclusive deal between Major League Baseball and Take Two Interactive.

However, although the NBA admits that it held negotiations over the possibility of an exclusive license, ultimately it opted for non-exclusive licensing - lauding the improvement in game quality that competition between publishers creates.

"Its been our experience that relative competition among the [publishers] has inspired a tremendous amount of creativity," commented the NBA's senior vice president of global merchandise, Sal LaRocca, in an interview with news agency Reuters.

"We felt that having a real diverse offering of products that runs the gamut in terms of demographics... that we would maintain a greater share of mind day in and day out," he concluded.

Basketball games are a huge market, especially in North America, where they are the second largest selling titles in the $1.18 billion sports game market after American football products.

The terms of the licenses will see EA and Take Two both publishing multi-platform simulation games on an annual basis, while Sony will publish a simulation title on PlayStation platforms - including PSP - also on an annual basis.

Atari, meanwhile, will publish the kids-focused Backyard Basketball title annually, while EA and Midway will alternate years with the NBA Street and NBA Ballers franchises, both of which are a more arcade / fantasy oriented look at the genre.

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