Dec 28 2009
Every year, there’s a lot of hype about the new Madden NFL game, and thousands of gamers reserve their copy for the Xbox or PS3. There’s become almost something of a subculture of Madden players, zealous gamers who wear NFL jerseys and compete in tournaments with other gamers from around the country. With no real alternative to playing realistic football on a video game console, EA’s Madden has a virtual monopoly on football video games. Yet, no one really seems to mind. A new Madden NFL game comes out every single year with only incremental changes from the prior year’s version of the game, but Madden fans nevertheless come out in droves to purchase the game immediately. Simply put, I don’t get it.
To be honest, the thing I’m most interested in every time a new Madden game comes out is who’s on the cover of the box. The “Madden Curse” is an eerie theory and, to me at least, more interesting in whatever minor changes have been made to the game. And let me be clear – I don’t suck at Madden. It’s just that I have a big problem with shelling out around $60 for an expansion pack masquerading as a whole new video game. For that reason, I stopped buying Madden NFL games a few years ago, although it’s quite obvious that I’m in the minority of those deterred by EA’s practice of churning out a new game every year.
And let’s face it – every new Madden game is in actuality an expansion pack for the prior year’s version of the game. The changes made from year to year are so minor that it’s hard to imagine that the additions couldn’t be available as downloadable content. The gameplay is just about identical from year to year, and although the game improves graphically each year, it’s certainly not a leap forward by any means. I mean, if I showed you screens from Madden ’09 and Madden ’10, would you be able to tell the difference?
Madden ’09 or ’10? Pretty negligible differences if you ask me.
Even assuming that the games undergo a significant visual improvement from year to year (and I believe that they do not), those visuals are reserved for replays and not the actual gameplay. If you’ve played one Madden game, in a sense, you’ve played them all – there’s a simple, overhead view centered behind your quarterback. Because the view is from far away, there’s no new detail to notice in the players or even in the field and stadium. It looks the same, and I highly doubt anyone is playing Madden for the replay graphics.
Of course, people don’t really play Madden for the graphics. But that brings me back to my original point- all the changes made every year are pretty much negligible that it’s hard to justify repackaging the additions as an entirely new game. So maybe this year, EA added a training camp feature. Maybe a few years ago, EA introduced the “hit stick,” enabling your defenders to really smash your opponent’s ball-carrier. Or maybe now the defensive lineman have a swim move in addition to a spin move. Regardless of what the changes are – and the examples I’ve given are all indeed actual changes – it just seems silly to me to buy a whole “new” game for the changes, let alone reserve a copy and buy it the day it comes out. Again, these changes could easily be thrown into, say, the Xbox Live, but then EA wouldn’t make much money.
NFL rosters change every season, but this, too, is something that can be addressed via online play and downloadable content. Shouldn’t someone with a copy of Madden ’07 be able to play against someone playing Madden ’10, if all the team rosters are updated? I think so, but instead, those without the cash for the newest copy of Madden will be stuck in franchise mode or will be scouring game lobbies for the remaining Madden ’07 players.
If I was in charge of EA Sports, I’d keep on cranking out new games, so I don’t expect this trend to stop anytime soon. The shame of it all lies in the fact that many of these “updates” could likely be accomplished via downloadable content, and these “updates” are really quite minor anyway. Ask yourself – how much has the Madden franchise really changed in the past 5 years? Were it any other video game franchise – Metroid, Halo, Metal Gear Solid, etc. – nobody would stand for it. But with Madden games, repetitive, repackaged products have become the norm and nobody seems to really give a damn.
Even if all the add-ons couldn’t be acquired via Xbox Live (and many of them, such as updated rosters, undoubtedly could be), would Madden fans really be happy with a new-yet-redundant version of Madden, or would they prefer a new game every few years, with major, noticable changes? For most franchises, it seems fans would prefer the latter option. Maybe Madden is just different.
Madden games are fun, but to me, they’re essentially all the same. Truth be told, I’d take Tecmo Bowl on the NES over Madden any day of the week.
What do you guys think? Do you buy a new Madden game every single year? Why or why not?
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