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EA tackles college football

Locking in another sports franchise, leading game publisher Electronic Arts will now have exclusive rights to college football games.

Leading video game publisher Electronic Arts locked up another sports franchise on Monday, winning exclusive rights to make college football games.

The Collegiate Licensing Co., which represents the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, and other entities, announced it signed a six-year contract with EA, giving the publisher exclusive rights to produce football games featuring college teams and stadiums. Financial terms were not disclosed.

EA rattled the game industry last year when it signed an exclusive deal with the National Football League, locking out competitors such as Take-Two Interactive Software from making professional football titles. The deal ensures a virtual monopoly for EA's "Madden NFL," a perennial moneymaker for the publisher.

Take-Two later retaliated with deals giving it exclusive rights to Major League Baseball games, a smaller market than football but important nonetheless.

The National Basketball Association bucked the exclusivity trend last month by signing contracts with five game publishers, arguing that competition would lead to better games and bigger sales.

EA's "NCAA Football 2005" was the only college football game on the market last year, but Take-Two had been expected to field a contender to tap into growing interest in college sports. "NCAA Football" games have sold more than a million units a year for EA the past few years and regularly placed in lists of the top-10 selling games of the year.

Pat Battle, CEO of Collegiate Licensing, said in a statement that the exclusive deal with EA promised the best return for the organization. "When we began our analysis of the videogame landscape, it became apparent that EA Sports was best positioned from a marketing and development perspective to maximize the sales opportunities for college football," he said.