TAILS: Madden Challenged

Ed’s Note: Written by Drew Norton

Aw yeah, it’s that time of year again. Are you ready for some VIRTUAL FOOTBALL?!

Madden 2011 was released last Tuesday and, just like every year, game designers who don’t work for EA are crying buckets into their pillows.

For those of you who don’t know, the Madden Football series is a series of videogames released every year since 1988. I’m not joking. This game is older than I am. It’s a powerhouse in the gaming industry and a benchmark for every other sports game on the market (except Mario Kart.)

Really, where would we be without John Madden Football? Playing Tecmo Bowl? Come on, who played Tecmo Bowl (even though people are still playing it after over twenty years and it was just re-released with 3-D characters)? Outrageous! A lot has changed since 1988, however. Game systems are no longer measured in bits. There isn’t a Bush in the White House. Janet Jackson is now the talented one by default. Is it justifiable to release a new game every year in the Internet age? Is the new Madden game worth it?

To answer this question, I need to get some biases out of the way. This is going to come up at some point, so I just want to give you guys all of the information: I hate EA. EA the biggest publisher of video games in the industry and I hate them. I hate them with a fiery passion. Electronic Arts is the devil. They are the Sith lords of the video game world. They make The Combine look like Alf. They rove around the gaming landscape, sucking up developers and then sucking them dry until they just plain suck. There is no joy in them, no heart. They’re like a giant black obsidian monolith that blocks the light and kills a beautiful rainforest full of adorable monkeys with gum-drop smiles. There are many, many reasons to hate them, but in the context of Madden the reason they are awful is that they bought the license to every NFL team ever. This makes it impossible for any other game developers to make a football game with real players without EA suing them until they die a horrible, legislative death. So I might be a little biased against them.

On the other hand, I don’t really hate the Madden games in particular. It’s boring to me, but that’s about it. Still, I wonder why they feel the need to release a game every year. All they do is add tiny updates to a game which has gone essentially unchanged since 1997.

This year they’ve apparently made it easier for noobs to pick it up and play. There’s dual stick play and 3-on-3 online. They’ve updated the rosters and stats, like they do every year. This is all very nice and I’m sure Madden heads are pissing themselves, (with anger. How dare they make it accessible?!) but why couldn’t this be released as DLC?

Downloadable content is the fastest growing market in the industry. Rockband has made over a billion dollars in revenue on DLC alone since it’s release. A billion. With a ‘B’. That’s ridiculous and those numbers are from around this time last year. If they released updated player stats throughout the year as updates and then released rosters, new modes and tweaks as DLC, they’d cut down on shipping costs, the cost of the disks and the cost of paying some asshole to be on the cover and then be cursed into obscurity. It just doesn’t make any sense to release a yearly full-priced deal.

All I ask is that they think about it. Of course they won’t because they’d rather rake in their motherload once a year than have a stead trickle of income throughout. They whip fan boys into such a frenzy that they’re willing to buy the same game every year until they die. It’s sad, really. Now who’s ready for the next Call of Duty game?!