Why I support #NFLDropEA
Madden 04 gained fame as the version of Madden where Michael Vick became a video game legend. It carried more significance for me because it was the first Madden I bought for myself with my own money.
Vick’s exploits were great, but the game stood out for more beyond that – a training camp mode to help improve players, an in depth owner’s mode, the ability to create new stadiums and a soundtrack that was *chef’s kiss*.
In the 17 years since, I’ve bought every edition of Madden. I’ve preordered, bought premium editions and stood in line at midnight just to get the latest game.
But that’s not happening this year.
EA, the creators of the Madden franchise, debuted the latest edition of the game and within a few days, #NFLDropEA trended on social media.
In 2005, the NFL signed an exclusive licensing deal with EA, giving the gaming company the “exclusive right” to produce an NFL-themed video game. At the time, the move shunned fans of the NFL2K franchise and eliminated any hopes for a competitor.
Back then, I didn’t care. I liked Madden better than 2K, anyway and Madden only got better as the years went on. The hit stick came in Madden 05, Madden 08 had a superstar mode and Madden 16 even added a Draft Champions mode.
But with no competition, EA seemingly fell asleep on the wheel. Every year, the company updates the rosters and graphics like the scoreboard. Aside from those changes, here are the major updates in the last five years, via Wikipedia:
Madden 17: A new ground game mechanic that balances the run game and a new defensive AI. Ultimate Team returned as well.
Madden 18: The story mode Longshot is introduced. The game was split into three game style and target passing was added.
Madden 19: “Real player motions”, interactive touchdown celebrations and more changes to Ultimate Team.
Madden 20: Longshot went away and QB1 was added as an updated superstar mode. Superstar KO was introduced.
Madden 21: Added The Yard, new “innovative gameplay mechanics”
It’s not so much that EA doesn’t change things with the game, but the new changes end up being glitchy.
IGN, a magazine focusing on technology and gaming, gave it a 6.0 out of 10, saying, “Despite the introduction of the surprisingly fun and unique The Yard mode, the list of persistent issues, neglected features and new annoyances is growing long.”
There’s yet another underlying issue with the game, one critics don’t often address.
When EA introduced Ultimate Team into Madden, it became the game’s main mode. Gamers collect players for their team and compete with others.
Players can be obtained either by purchasing packs with in-game currency or through an in-game marketplace where they are bid at auction. In-game currency and some cards are earned through challenges, but often, gamers spend real-world money to buy the currency needed for the packs.
That money goes beyond the $60ish base price for that year’s game. The in-game purchases are so lucrative that EA saw a massive boost in revenue in 2019, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
While the game is fun – I logged plenty of hours myself – it’s easy to hook gamers, especially children, into using money for packs that don’t always pay off. A long Reddit thread asked players how much they’ve spent on the game. The average responses are between $30 and $60 per year, but others admit their own addiction -- $2500 one year, $1000 each of the following years.
I realized I wouldn’t buy this year’s Madden back in June before Lucy’s birth. I spent the last three months playing MLB The Show’s Diamond Dynasty (think MUT for baseball) and saw how to do that style of game right.
Diamond Dynasty gives players the option to play and earn in-game currency as well, but the rewards are better. High-level cards are received merely by getting experience points in the game. Better yet, those cards are able to be sold in their market, allowing players to use that currency and create the teams they want.
While Madden the last few years feels like a money grab, MLB The Show seems like a different version of gaming that doesn’t ruin the gaming experience or put its gamers at risk.
Is it weird to not buy the game for the first time since *checks my math* 8th grade? Totally. But I couldn’t convince myself to pay for a $60 roster update and a broken game.
I don’t think it’ll ever happen, but I do back #NFLDropEA in the name of letting competition create the best product.