Madden NFL Video Game

Madden NFL is an American football video game series developed by Electronic Arts Tiburon for EA Sports. The game is named after John Madden, a well-known football color commentator and formerly a successful Super Bowl-winning professional football coach during the 1970s with the Oakland Raiders. Madden insisted that he would only give his endorsement to a game that was as close to real life football as possible. Madden's nephew, Al, is reportedly the family's liaison to EA.

Early versions

The first version of the game was released in 1989 for the Apple II, as John Madden Football. The first console version (and the version that made it a top-selling franchise) for the Sega Genesis followed in 1990 with a Super Nintendo version available a year later. EA Sports has released annual updates for all versions since 1991's John Madden Football '92. The series gained full NFL licensing and became known as Madden NFL with 1993's Madden NFL '94; NFL players licenses came two years later. The game's total franchise sales surpass 51 million worldwide, most of it in the U.S.

Evolution

John Madden Football (1990). Screenshot of Madden NFL 2001 (Nintendo 64 version). Prerendered CGI of Madden NFL 2006. Screenshot of Madden NFL 2006 (PlayStation 2 version). Madden 06 Xbox 360 version.The game has grown, refined and matured over the years, adding many new features. Among these is voice commentary, allowing players or watchers to hear the game being called as if it were a real game on TV. The commentary is by John Madden teamed with his regular broadcast partner, which meant Pat Summerall (Madden's partner during his days at CBS and Fox during the early 1980s on through the early 2000s) until he retired; the role is now filled by Al Michaels, John's current broadcast partner on NBC Sunday Night Football (and former partner from 2002 through 2005 on ABC Monday Night Football).

1980s

The original version of the game was commissioned by EA founder Trip Hawkins in 1984, and originally ran on an Apple II. EA had just shipped the hit Dr. J and Larry Bird Go One on One and would soon begin work on Earl Weaver Baseball and World Tour Golf, which together were the foundation for the EA Sports line of video games. The Apple II was not fast enough to show all the players running in real formations on the field. Madden personally rejected the initial proposed build because there were only seven players on each team. After several years of unsuccessful experiments the game finally shipped in the late 1980s and did not sell well.

1990s

When the Sega Genesis gained popularity in the early 1990s, EA tried again. Producer Richard Hilleman brought in veteran sports game designer Scott Orr, who had founded 1980s Commodore 64 game publisher GameStar and had led the design of their best-selling sports games. The team of Orr and Hilleman designed and led the development of what is today still recognizable as the modern Madden Football, the highest revenue-generating video game series in North America in game history. Early versions of Madden were created by outside studios (including Park Place Productions and Stormfront Studios) but by the late 1990s development was centralized internally at EA Tiburon in Orlando, Florida.

2000s

There are multiple modes of game play, from a quick head-to-head game to running a team for a whole season or even multiple seasons. Online play, which was a new feature for Madden NFL 2003 (in this versions there are also mini-camp challenges) was only available for users of the PlayStation 2 console or a Microsoft Windows PC until earlier this year. At E3 2004, Microsoft and EA Sports released a press statement announcing that games made from July on will now be Xbox Live-enabled. In August of 2004, EA Sports released Madden NFL 2005 and thus became a fierce competitor in the Xbox Live Community.

Also, starting with Madden NFL 2004, EA Sports created the new "Play Maker" tool, using the right analog joystick found on many controllers. This allows the players to make pre-snap route adjustments, as well as defensive alignment adjustments.

In Madden NFL 2005, EA Sports further utilized the right analog joystick by creating the "Hit Stick", an option on defense that allows the controlled player to make big hits that can cause fumbles.

In the penultimate edition to the Madden series, Madden 06, the truck stick was introduced. This feature allows the offensive player to lower his shoulder and break a tackle, or back juke to avoid one. Another new feature is the 'Superstar Mode', which allows the player to take control of a Rookie, and progress through his career. This includes an IQ test, the NFL Draft, hiring an agent, and other aspects of a superstar's life.

In Madden 2006, EA introduced the QB Vision Feature. With this feature, a cone of spotlight emits from the quarterback during passing plays, simulating his field of vision. To make an accurate pass, the quarterback must have his intended receiver in his field of vision. Passing to a receiver not in the cone reduces pass accuracy significantly. The size of the quarterback's vision cone is directly correlated to his Awareness rating; Peyton Manning and Brett Favre see nearly the entire field at once, whereas an inexperienced quarterback such as J.P. Losman or Kyle Boller will see only a sliver of the field. This feature also allows for Precision Passing. With precision passing, users can pinpoint where the ball should go. It can be thrown high, low, left, right, etc.

In Madden NFL 2007, EA introduced "Lead Blocker Controls" which allow users to control blockers during running plays. In addition, EA redefined the Truck Stick into the "Highlight Stick". With the Highlight stick, users can have their running backs perform different running moves and combos, instead of just bowling over defenders. Truck Stick features still exist for bigger backs, but not for smaller backs who would never realistically use them anyways.

Licensing

Due to a contractual obligation, Bill Parcells cannot appear in the Madden NFL series until his television contract with ESPN actually expires. Currently, the game names the Dallas Cowboys head coach "Dallas Coach." New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is also not in the game because he is not a member of the NFL Coaches Association, which sells the rights to have the coaches' names in the game.

On December 13, 2004, EA Sports announced it had secured exclusive rights to the NFL and its players' union for the subsequent five years, precluding any other third-party from selling a football game using NFL players, teams, stadiums or other licenses.

The "Madden Curse"

Main article: Madden curse Prior to 2000, all of the Madden NFL game box covers prominently featured John Madden only. When EA started to have NFL players on the cover of the Madden NFL games, some later (half-jokingly) speculated that there was a "Madden curse": a coincidental series of misfortunes that befell the product's cover-athletes. In the 2002 edition of the game, quarterback Daunte Culpepper appeared on the cover and then suffered an injury plagued year in which his stats fell considerably. People started noticing a pattern with St. Louis Rams' running back Marshall Faulk who appeared on the 2003 edition cover of Madden after a Super Bowl winning season. The following year his stats dropped sharply compared to his prior season. The next year, Atlanta Falcons' star player, quarterback Michael Vick, was injured during the 2003 preseason after posing for the cover of Madden 2004. Vick suffered a broken fibula in a preseason game against Baltimore, the day after Madden 2004 was released to retailers. The injury resulted in a painful 5-11 year for Vick's team. Ray Lewis was able to evade the curse until the 2005 season after being featured on the cover of Madden 2005. He suffered a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season after only 6 games. Although people who believe in the curse state that the featured player will wind up having a weak or injury-prone season, EA officials point out that Eddie George appeared on the cover of the 2001 version, and had a successful season without injury. However, coverplayer of the 2006 game versions, Donovan McNabb, injured his chest in week 1 of the 2005 season, and played in only 9 games before being sidelined for the season after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia.

Criticism

Annual updates and prices

The Madden NFL series each year is given annual updates that are generally small, sometimes a new feature or two, and updating the graphics slightly, all for the same $50 price as the previous years' title (now $60 on the next-gen Xbox 360 console). For example, Madden 2004 introduced a new feature: Build-A-Stadium, and the 2006 version had absolutely no updates on this feature. Many players have been calling for a Career Records listing in Franchise Mode (such as the top ten all-time rushers or passers) for many years, though the producers of Madden have never obliged. Still, the game sells well each year because of player movement in the NFL (which has caused the series' detractors to refer to each game as simply a roster update, such as Roster Update 2007), as well as being the only "real" (or, official) NFL video game.

Missing features

Each year, Madden developers also fail to address certain issues that fans have found with the game. It has been debated that each year Madden removes features from previous editions only to make returns in future versions of games. The Xbox 360 version of Madden NFL 06 removed many features and the ability to challenge plays. While the missing features from the Xbox 360 version of Madden would appear consistent with the argument, it has also been argued that EA simply rushed this version of the game to release so that the game would coordinate with the launch of the next generation console.

Exclusivity

In 2005, the producers of the Madden series, EA Sports, signed an exclusive licensing deal with the NFL and the NFLPA to give them the exclusive right to use the NFL's teams, stadiums and players in a video game, something which has been widely criticized. This exclusive license has put an end to competition in NFL video games and, some have suggested, this gives EA less incentive to maintain quality and a greater opportunity to increase prices. In this climate, some football games, such as the ultra-violent Blitz: The League, have elected to continue, seeking to distinguish themselves through innovative gameplay, while others such as the well-reviewed ESPN NFL 2K series have been forced to cease production. However, it should be noted that EA's exclusive licensing deal is not unique. The NFL has similar exclusivity deals concerning virtually all of its licensing (DirecTV, Reebok, CBS, Fox, etc.)

QB Vision Control

The Vision Control feature continues to be controversial amongst certain Madden NFL fans. Other than how some players just don't like it, others believe it resonates a bias that EA has regarding abilities of the athletes.

In Madden 07 the QB Vision Control is implemented, but as an optional setting from the settings menu.

Related Sites

Angelina at CelebChaos

Orlando Sentinal Video Game Blog

Destructoid Madden Curse Discussion