If you haven’t been happy with the direction of Madden under EA over these past few years, I’ve got some bad news for you.
On Thursday, the National Football League, NFL Players Association and Electronic arts announced a renewals of their partnership. It will result in the gaming publisher maintaining the exclusive rights to create “authentic football simulation games” — a crushing blow for football fans fed up with the Madden football franchise.
In recent years, support for the Madden NFL franchise has waned as fans have grown tired of the series’ lack of innovation. There’s a running joke in the Madden community that each year’s game is nothing more than a glorified roster update.
Of course, that’s not true. EA does implement new features in attempt to keep the game interesting. Madden 20 introduced Superstar X-Factor abilities in an attempt to make the league’s best players stand out among everyone else.
Often overshadowing these efforts though is the lack of attention to detail. Sucking the air out of each new Madden release is the fact that the game is often riddled with glitches and bugs. It doesn’t take hard detective work to find the numerous videos of hilariously frustrating glitches upon each Madden launch.
But despite the frustration with EA and Madden, the annual football sim continues to sell well. In the press release, EA called Madden 20 the “most successful game in franchise history,” pointing out:
"Unique players have grown by 30 percent year-over-year, monthly average players have reached an all-time high, more than 330 million hours of the game have been played, and over one billion minutes watched on Twitch since launch. In just the month of April alone, player levels have nearly doubled from last year, and great community and celebrity-athlete competitions broadcast throughout the month led to the equivalent of 2,600 NFL seasons of Madden NFL 20 content watched by viewers around the world. Madden NFLesports also had its biggest year yet, with broadcasts on ESPN, ESPN2, and FS1 bringing MaddeNFL competitive programming to tens of millions of fans."
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Madden 20, despite its flaws, is an incredibly successful franchise when it comes to sales. A big reason for this, however, is the lack of competition. As EA is the only game publisher with exclusive rights to the NFL licensing, Madden is the option football fans have.
One could argue that this exclusivity deal, while beneficial to EA’s bottom line, is hurting the fans. As with any market, competition breeds excellence. This is no doubt true with the gaming industry. How can we expect EA to push the envelope if they have the security of having a monopoly on NFL licensing?
As we’ve seen in recent years, we can’t.
Many have desired for 2K to make a run at obtaining an NFL license and produce its own football game. That won’t happen for a while now, as the extension between EA and the NFL runs through 2026.
Hopefully, with new generation of consoles launching later this year, EA has been hard at work making Madden 21 the best yet. We’ve yet to see what this year’s game has to offer, but that will change on June 1 with the official first look at Madden 21.