As far as

Electronic Arts


is concerned, sports means business.

The video-game software company demonstrated that philosophy again on Wednesday, announcing a multiyear agreement with famed football commentator John Madden. The deal will keep Madden's name and likeness on EA's National Football League game franchise. This year's version --

Madden NFL 06

-- is the 16th iteration of EA's Madden football game.

The company declined to give the financial terms of the deal or to specify how many years it will last.

The deal with Madden is only the latest effort by EA to shore up its sports division.


Madden NFL

series is perennially the top-selling sports game and one of the best-selling video games overall. As such, it serves as the flagship title for EA's sports division, which has had leading entries in other sports also, such as golf and NBA basketball.

But last year, that division saw its first significant

challenge in years after

Take-Two Interactive

(TTWO) - Get Report

teamed up with


to co-publish Sega's critically acclaimed ESPN line of sports games. The result of Take-Two's effort -- which focused on offering premium titles at cut-rate prices -- was a

price war that cut into EA's bottom line.

EA has since attempted to head off Take-Two's challenge by signing a long-term exclusive relationships with the

NFL and

college football and by luring away

ESPN from Take-Two with another long-term deal.

Take-Two has responded by

buying several development studios that focus on sports games and by

signing its own semi-exclusive deal with Major League Baseball.

Some analysts have expressed concern about the cost of the exclusive deals and EA has said that they will depress its results this year. However, EA officials have argued that the agreements will benefit the company over the long term.

Shares of EA traded off after the announcement. In recent trading, the company's shares were off 66 cents, or 1%, to $60.