We usually don’t do this with Debate Club, but I’m calling an audible and changing the original debate for my response. The plan was for each of us to state a franchise we’d like to see go away completely, but after reading Steve’s response – Madden – I feel compelled to instead reply directly to his choice.
I don’t agree that the Madden franchise should be sent to the showers, but not because I disagree with anything that Steve said about it. On the contrary, I am definitely part of the camp that feels like Madden is on cruise control and has been for a long time, and not having any direct competitor is the reason for that. I also agree that it is ridiculous that a single game company can have a complete monopoly over an entire American professional sports league. You know what, though? That’s what sports gamers wanted. So that’s what they deserve.
At various points in the Madden game franchise’s 25 year history it had a few serious competitors. In the PlayStation era, Sony’s own GameDay series had a few seasons where it gave Madden a run for its money, until GameDay completely fumbled in the transition to PS2 and never recovered. Of course, everyone knows that the most series challenge that Madden ever had was Take 2’s (formerly Sega’s) NFL 2K series. It didn’t make a huge dent in Madden’s helmet when it was a Dreamcast-exclusive, but once the Dreamcast was discontinued and NFL 2K went multiplatform, Madden finally had a legitimate rival…at least in quality. It definitely had better commentary than Madden’s lazy phoned-in soundbites like “They’re either going to run the ball here or they’re going to pass it” and “If you outscore your opponent, you’re gonna win the game.” Those are both actual quotes from Madden’s video game commentary, by the way.
So what happened? Well, it’s “not Madden”, so sales were weak. So weak, in fact, that 2K surprised everyone with a Hail Mary and released NFL 2K5 for only $20 at launch. That’s right…so few people bought the arguably superior – but definitely comparable – NFL 2K4 that a brand-new, fully-featured football title had to be released at a budget price to compete. Finally NFL 2K actually made a strong sales enough showing to scare EA…so badly that they just took over the exclusive rights to the NFL license. effectively putting NFL 2K out of the game completely.
So you did it. It’s your own fault. You were so dedicated to Madden and refused to give another football game a chance that all the others went away. And now, you faithfully by the new Madden, year after year, no matter what. So why should EA bother pouring a ton of money into reinventing or overhauling it when it’s going to sell regardless? It’s kind of like the Chicago Cubs – they make money win or lose, so might as well lose. It’s cheaper. To make a game-related analogy, it’s like Call of Duty – people buy the new CoD every year, CoD is always the most played game on Xbox and PlayStation every year, so there aren’t a lot of competitors. Then when people complain about this or that when a new CoD comes out, all I can do is shrug and say “That’s what you wanted.” And both of those franchises make way too much money to only blame it on the frat boys anymore.
Not unlike Steve, I’m not really all that invested in the Madden games, or sports games in general (for reasons I detailed in a previous Debate Club entry). So it doesn’t make a difference to me if Madden remains good ENOUGH until the end of time. In fact, mean-spirited as this may be, I sort of hope Madden is never anything more than good enough. Just like with the Call of Duty thing. You don’t want to give any other games a chance, venture outside your comfort zone, try something new, then you get the same ol’ same ol’. Thems the breaks.
As a final note, Steve ended his article by saying he wishes Mutant League Football would make a comeback. Well they tried to bring it back…but it didn’t reach its Kickstarter funding goal. Total shocker. I guess people needed to save their money for that steelcase special edition of that year’s Madden.