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Take-Two bulks up on baseball

Electronics Arts eats some dust as Take-Two's deal with all of Major League Baseball's entities specifies no third parties. Images: Take-Two hits a home run

The executives at Take-Two Interactive Software have been eating their Wheaties.

After seeing rival Electronics Arts pull two major licenses--the National Football League and ESPN--from its grips recently, game publisher Take-Two has scored a hit of its own.

As expected, Take-Two announced Monday that the company has entered into a long-term licensing agreement with Major League Baseball Properties (MLBP), the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), and Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM).

In addition, the New York-based company announced that New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter will be spokesman and cover athlete for the 2K Sports baseball simulation series.

The announcements comes a week after the near-exclusive deal with the MLBPA was publicized by the league itself--with no word coming from Take-Two at the time.

The deal, which goes into effect in spring 2006, gives Take-Two the exclusive rights to publish and distribute officially licensed games for consoles, PCs and handhelds.

Executives declined to specify the length of the agreements, but industry sources said that depending on the specific partner, terms were for either seven or eight years. Likewise, there was no mention of what Take-Two paid for the rights was announced. However, media reports last week put the value of the MLBPA deal alone at $80 million to $150 million.

The sweeping deal will give Take-Two exclusives, including "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," according to the groups.

In addition, Take-Two and MLB have put all other third-party publishers on notice that no wiggle room exists for their entry into the MLB-licensed space. The deal allows only the major console manufacturers, Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, the "right to enter into development agreements for MLB games specific to their particular platforms."

Earlier, many industry observers saw an opportunity for publishers such as Electronic Arts to collaborate with the manufacturers, possibly to co-brand MLB-licensed games. The agreement effectively closes that opening.

"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 groups said.

Hoping to bring added sizzle to the baseball space, Take-Two said it will introduce more games and will distribute them with greater frequency than the industry is used to.

Curt Feldman reported for GameSpot.com.