"We're telling a story and we have a point of view," EA Labels President Frank Gibeau tells Reuters. "A book doesn't pay for saying the word 'Colt,' for example."
EA spokesman Jeff Brown says branded weapons lend games "enhanced authenticity," which is why EA wants to keep them in its games. However, all official agreements between EA and gun companies are now severed. "The action games we will release this year will not include licensed images of weapons," Brown says.
Following December's mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the NRA and a handful of politicians and pundits blamed video games for encouraging gun violence. One week after the shooting, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said video games represented "a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people."
Brown says that the NRA's comments have nothing to do with its decision: "The response from our audience was pretty clear: They feel the comments from the NRA were a simple attempt to change the subject."
EA is currently involved in a lawsuit with Bell Helicopter, who argues that use of its helicopters in the Battlefield games goes beyond fair use and infringes on Bell's trademark. A jury trial is set for June to decide the issue, which could easily apply to EA's new gun-licensing theory.
Update: Jeff Brown tells Ars Technica that EA has never paid a licensing fee to a gun manufacturer, nor has it been paid to use specific branded guns in its games. EA will simply continue this practice in the future.
"No other EA game or service has used licensed gun images in a game," Brown says.
EA did work with McMillan and Magpul for that Medal of Honor: Warfighter campaign, a charity benefiting veterans that encouraged gun makers featured in the game to donate. Those that did were featured on a Warfighter sub-page as "authentic brands" in the game. All of the money went straight to the charity, Brown says.