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Innovation & Design

Madden Goes Unopposed But Doesn't Drag Its Feet

Although the criticism was expected, after EA snagged the

exclusive NFL rights the dev team at Tiburon took it to heart and

made sure the industry knew that the next Madden would get

the treatment it and its fans deserved, competition or no. The

hard work seems to be paying off, as Madden 06 is off to a very

hot start.

Although official August numbers are not yet available, all signs

seem to indicate that Madden NFL 2006 is a monster, even by

Madden standards. EA released a statement just one week after

06's release, stating that the previous seven days represented

"the biggest week one launch of a Madden NFL Football game in

the franchise's sixteen-year history."

The fact that EA's financial clout allowed them to snatch up

exclusive rights to the NFL, NCAA, and Arena Football licenses

certainly accounts for some of Madden's sharp increase in sales

this fall, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Developer Tiburon

didn't view 06 as an opportunity to take a year off despite no

longer having any competition, and EA's marketing team seemed

equally intent on growing sales, through the powerful "X days

until Madden" ad campaign.

Welcome to Madden Country

"People say that baseball is America's pastime, but not in the

videogame world. For gamers, football is. Madden is," Electronic

Gaming Monthly's News Editor Bryan Intihar told GameDAILY BIZ.

August NPD results will tell the full story, but according to EA's

internal data, 1.7 million copies of Madden were sold in just one

week. In 2004 EA released a similar press release one week after

Madden launched, touting its record-breaking (at the time) sales

of 1.35 million copies.

Yet in 2004, Madden was not the only football title on the

market. Take-Two's NFL 2K series put significant pressure on EA

Sports' flagship title with its high quality and $20 price point.

NFL 2K5 sold 791,000 copies in its first month of availability,

which seems to indicate that this year's week-one Madden sales

hike of 350,000 copies is really nothing more than the franchise

swallowing up sales that would have likely gone towards NFL


"I believe 2K, with its $20 price point, reintroduced many gamers

to football videogames, who hadn't purchased one in years -- it

widened the potential market. Now this fall those gamers are

sticking around and crossing over to Madden," Intihar said.

Tiburon's Tough Position

Madden developer Tiburon fell under a lot of unfair fire after the

NFL exclusivity was first announced in December. The

conclusion reached by most message board denizens seemed

reasonable enough -- no competition would lead to

complacency, and a lowered amount of creativity/quality. Take-

Two seemed to agree, stating that the deal does a "tremendous

disservice to the consumers... by limiting their choices and

curbing creativity" shortly after the deal was announced.

Although Tiburon was undoubtedly extremely pleased to hear

that they and they alone had the rights to use NFL League assets

and player likenesses, it wasn't a deal they were responsible for.

06's ambitious enhancements and additions to last year's

Madden seemed to be aimed directly at those who insisted the

company would "take a year off" thanks to the absence of NFL


"From a critical point of view the best words to sum up Madden

2006 are 'surprisingly ambitious,'" Intihar said. "They took

chances that people didn't expect, and really wanted to prove

everyone wrong. Changing the passing game was massive.

Tiburon brought out the media to see the game a month and a

half early, to prove to everyone that they were not just taking the

year off."

The Big Get Bigger

While Tiburon has (rightly) been commended for continuing to

innovate in significant ways despite this being the sixth Madden

released for the current generation of consoles -- not to

mention no longer having any competition -- most reviewers

agreed that the developer might have bitten off a little more

innovation than it could refine in just one year. 06's reviews

were markedly lower than 05's.

At the end of the day, Madden 2006 is likely to significantly

outsell Madden 2005, despite having a lower review average.

Everyone involved with the product worked hard to prove this

year that NFL exclusivity wasn't going to ruin football gaming,

but it's unlikely that any amount of negative attention would

now be able to dent the franchise.

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