Madden NFL 20 changes and improvements to franchise mode detailed

EA /

Franchise mode has often been ignored in recent years by EA Tiburon, but Madden NFL 20 will see some much-needed improvements to the fan-favorite mode.

In revealing Madden NFL 20 this week, EA briefly touched upon some of the new features and mechanics in this year’s game. Perhaps not a surprise to anyone who has played the game in recent years, there was no mention of franchise mode.

This obviously doesn’t come as much of a surprise as EA Tiburon has shifted most of its focus towards the more lucrative Ultimate Team mode in recent years, leaving franchise mode to fall by the wayside. Sure, the mode has been featured in Madden each year, but the outdated systems and lackluster “improvements” have resulted in a largely unsatisfying experience.

As someone who grew up playing Madden‘s franchise mode with my brother and friends, the lack of attention given to franchise mode has lessened my interest in the game each year. Madden NFL 19 was the breaking point, leading us all to question if Madden NFL 20 will even be worth buying this year.

As it turns out, EA Tiburon is well aware that franchise mode needs some TLC, and the developer even brought in some of the Madden community’s franchise mode enthusiasts to help. Courtesy of GameInformer, we now have a better idea of the improvements coming to Madden NFL 20‘s franchise mode.

For starters, the franchise mode will make full use of the new Scenario Engine, Madden NFL 20‘s “instrument for recreating the dramatic storylines that drive headlines all year round in the NFL.” What this hopefully means is that we’ll experience more dynamic storylines that mimic the real world experiences of the NFL.

Madden NFL 20 creative director Mike Young explained that the team looked at storylines like Le’Veon Bell’s holdout or Antonio Brown demanding a trade and realized nothing like that was offered in franchise mode. Sure, you could put players on the trade block or franchise a player if they chose not to sign with you, but it ultimately had no impact on your team’s chemistry. Now it sounds as if team leadership and cohesiveness, and managing the locker room and the big personalities that are inside of it will have more of an impact on your roster.

Madden NFL 20 screenshot
EA /

“The Scenario Engine is intended to create dynamic storylines week to week based on how you’re playing, who you are, your record, your stats, and the personalities around you. It fires off stories that could be one-week stories, but there are also several storylines that are branching,” Young revealed.

It sounds like the decisions you make as coach or GM will finally have an actual impact. Players on your team’s roster will have a response more in line with real life. “If you franchise tag a guy, there should be a risk that he’ll just retire or demand a trade,” Young added. “You should feel that weight when you are making these choices instead of sorting a spreadsheet and going, ‘eh, he’s not that good.’ There’s got to be a risk/reward to this stuff to really make you feel the immersion of it.”

In theory, this all sounds amazing. This sort of roster personality depth has been sorely missing from franchise mode, resulting in a fairly straight forward way to build your roster. It sounds like you’ll have to be more engaged than ever when making roster moves, paying attention to player requests and desires.

That said, I’m holding my breath until I see the Scenario Engine in action. Too often we’re promised these sort of mechanics only to see how broken they truly are when the game releases.

In addition to these scenarios, EA Tiburon has also made some changes to the scheme fit system. Introduced in last year’s game, the scheme fit system was based on the notion that certain players perform and develop better in certain offensive and defensive schemes. It was an intriguing addition to franchise mode, but it was incredibly convoluted and actually resulted in less flexibility when assembling your roster.

The scheme system will return in Madden NFL 20, but EA has made some key changes. For starters, a player’s progression won’t be completely stagnated if they are playing in a scheme that isn’t perfect for them.

Additionally, EA has added three new offensive schemes to better represent the current shift in the NFL to the run-pass option with younger quarterbacks. As a result, we’ve got the new West Coast Spread, which focuses on quick-strike horizontal passes to open up running lanes for the quarterback; the Pistol, a shotgun-based formation that targes the weak side of the field with runs or passes; and the Air Raid, a pass-heavy no-huddle system that’s perfect for players who prefer to make adjustments at the line.

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To counter, four new defensive schemes have been added: 4-3 Cover 3, a safe formation to minimize gains; the 3-4 Storm to pressure the quarterback; 4-3 Quarters (or Cover-4) to contain the spread offense; and 3-4 Disguise, which emphasizes symmetrical lineups to disguise blitzes.

Madden‘s playbooks, especially on defense, have often lacked the diversity required to stop many of the offensive plays in the game. While players could theoretically come up with a gameplan to counter their opponents, the formations available on defense left much to be desired. It finally sounds like we’ll be able to do our best Bill Belichick impersonation in game plan strategizing.

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Young promised that franchise was a big focus of the development team, but there are still numerous issues that need to be addressed: smarter trade logic, more in-depth scouting, more intelligent free agent signings and better drafting strategies by the CPU are a few that come to mind. It’s nice EA is finally giving some love to a mode other than Ultimate Team, but they’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Madden NFL 20 is set to release on August 2 for PS4, Xbox One and PC.