EA Sports Could Lose The Exclusive License For NFL Games – But They Won’t

The deal that ruined football gaming for almost a decade is scheduled to expire this year.  EA Sports and Madden have been synonymous with declining quality and innovation ever since coming to an agreement with the NFL and NFLPA to have exclusive rights for an NFL video game.  This essentially did away with any of the NFL games you might have played instead of Madden over the years before that fateful day in 2004.

While there is no doubt that Madden’s sales have been impressive for the 25 years that it has been around, there is cause for concern when there is a consistent feeling among consumers that the game is nothing more than a roster update every year.  To call Madden a simulation experience would be like calling Call of Duty a military simulator.  On the surface there is ‘football’ but once you boot the game and start playing it will feel more like a half-scripted arcade game with decent graphics, canned animations and poor physics.

When the exclusive license expires it will be more of a ceremonial expiration than anything to get excited about if you are a 2K Football fan.  This is because the NFL and the NFLPA (Players Association) are going to renew the deal.  Electronic Arts (EA) is like the New York Yankees of game development.  They are easily the most hated team in sports, their fans tend to be loud and obnoxious and they really don’t have to worry about sales every year… because they are the Yankees.  There is a big problem with the Yankees and that is starting to show on the field and in the front office (See A-Rod, etc.), much like EA and their overall performance as a game developer by and large.

Over the last few weeks EA has been ridiculed for their terrible release of the new SimCity game on PC.  They flubbed the launch in so many ways that you had to almost ask yourself if someone sabotaged them.  They had server issues that prevented people from playing the game when it came out.  Then they had numerous other issues that stemmed from their use of DRM (Digital Rights Management).  DRM being put into the game is a sign that EA fears piracy, and why shouldn’t they?  Gaming has slipped into a realm of Catch 22 that few other industries have had to deal with outside of music and movies.  What you will start to notice is that when people want to support a business or a certain way of doing things they will speak with their wallet’s/purse’s/allowance.

The sales of Madden have been relatively stable over the course of the 360/PS3 generation of consoles.  This is coupled with the fact that the NFL has been bringing in billions of dollars as the favorite sport and form of entertainment of the United States.  It is going to be hard to tell either party that they should change what is going so well for them financially.  This is the primary reason why the exclusive license will carry on between EA Sports, the NFL and the NFLPA.  Money talks and so far the football gaming community has been speaking EA’s language.

The glimmer of hope can be found in the fact that EA lost exclusive rights to NCAA and Arena Football.  While the AFL is about as popular as VHS Tapes – college football is a huge business and a potentially open market for a developer like 2K Sports to take advantage of if they wanted to bring some sort of competition to EA’s doorstep.  There is a somewhat large group of football gamers that prefer NCAA Football over NFL football and EA’s NCAA Football has been less than stellar over the last few years.  Hopefully we will see a company like 2K Sports step up to the plate and work on a football game once again.  Lord knows they haven’t stepped up to the plate for hockey this year and they keep striking out on their baseball titles.

The best thing for Madden NFL is competition and they know it will make them have to step up their game.  Which is exactly why they will continue to hold the exclusive license for NFL gaming.  You can have hope that it will expire and not be renewed, but don’t hold your breath.

Madden 25 (aka Madden 14) Gets A Release Date

Madden 14 Pic

Well, it is ‘Facebook Official’.  Madden 14 is coming out on August 27, 2013.

Also, it is actually being called ‘Madden 25’ according to many media releases.  What’s in a name?  Hopefully some substantial improvements.

EA Sports has released a banner promoting their next iteration of Madden.

What are your thoughts?  Going to jump in and get it on release day or will you be skipping out on what seems like the same game every year?

Will Games Change Their Digital Approach Next Generation?

Now that we are firmly into the high speed internet age and online functionality has become almost synonymous with every game on the market (including the ubiquitous ‘patching’ of games).  The issue many sports gamers are running into is that they are pouring $60+ into games that come out every year with minor improvements/changes and roster updates.  This has caused sports gamers to generally ask on occasion why developers like EA and 2K won’t simply release a cheaper update to the game every other year BLOPS2or so instead of requiring the purchase of new software every single year.

The most obvious responses are ‘…because people are buying the games in droves” and “Why would you stop milking your cash cow when it is obviously still producing results?”

The issue at hand in the coming generation of consoles is that they will be largely focused on digital content more-so than even these current consoles seem to be.  While the PlayStation Store and XBox Marketplace are doing well and provide services to subscribers/gamers it seems like only a matter of time before you will have to start buying certain content by sections rather than a full-fledged title.

Some games like Call of Duty, Battlefield and Halo could potentially be sold in three different ways.

  1. Online Multiplayer
  2. Offline Story Mode/Campaign
  3. Full Game (Online and Offline Content)

This isn’t the first time that something like this has been suggested.  You can go to virtually any rumor mill site for gaming and read about an industry analyst talking about the likelihood of a game like Call of Duty charging people to play online.   The issue that gamers should be considering is whether or not they are happy with the current state of games.  Whether or not you are paying extra for maps, add-ons or even avatar clothing you have to appreciate how smooth the transition has been between the PS2/XBox to the PS3 and 360 in terms of online interactivity and microtransactions like coins for Madden Ultimate Team.

We will soon be entering a new realm of digital content distribution.  Considering the actions of developers in the last 18 months, you shouldn’t be surprised if you will have options to buy games by piecemeal or some sort of full-game combo.

If you disagree about the outlook or attitude towards some aspects of games (such as story mode/campaign) you should ask Battlefield or Call of Duty gamers if they have played more than 45 minutes of the campaign mode.

The fact that Battlefield has a disc for campaign mode on 360 says a lot (even if it is simply due to space)… my campaign disc has been in the system for less than two hours – total.

Get ready for some big changes next gen.

Madden – Preparing For The Super Bowl Hype Machine

The majority of traffic to NoobTubeTV over the past year has been for information on all things ‘Madden’.  This year will be interesting if you consider the release of the XBox 720 (or whatever they will call it) to be on the top of your anticipation list.  Regardless of what you are looking forward to in football gaming this year, Madden is most likely on the top of your list.

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Madden 13 is a game that came out of the gates strong with some new direction to Franchise Mode with the new Connected Careers Mode.  Some gamers hated this move and the direction of earning XP for players through on field production.  Other gamers enjoyed this new move for realism in player growth during CCM.  Either way you fall on this argument you will notice that it was always part of the hype machine after the Madden 12 cycle finished with the Super Bowl.

With the Super Bowl (and the new Madden Release Date announcement) only a few weeks away you should be fully prepared for the onslaught of Madden hype from EA Sports.

Some of the hopes for improvement in Madden 14 are –

  1. More customization of playbooks and depth charts/players – CCM cut off a lot of user creativity as it all but removed player editing and roster editing from the mode.
  2. Better OLine and DLine Interaction – This is something that is called for and demanded by the Madden community every year.  EA supposedly made this better by using the strength ratings in Madden 13, but given the constant issues with defensive linemen not getting proper sack numbers and the strange ‘Pancake Block’ stat for OLinemen, it is questionable as to whether or not EA knows anything about linemen at all.
  3. Smarter AI Decisions and Gameplanning – Why do CPU QBs get away with clear intentional grounding?  Why does the CPU call a HB Draw while down 5 points and 55 yards from the endzone with 17 seconds left?  Why does the CPU call a Timeout with 1:01 left in the 4th quarter?
  4. More Realistic Injuries – We have been calling for this for years.  The bottom line is that real time physics means nothing if injuries are random.

XBox 720, Playstation 4 and Madden 14 – Why They Could All Disappoint

The latest rumors of Microsoft having intentions of announcing the XBox 720 during E3 are almost as surprising as the fact that Madden 14 will be announce during the Super Bowl.  A lot of gamers like to sit on the edge of their seats waiting for the next big thing to happen in gaming.  The issues that comes with this latest set of next-gen console rumors are many, but we will start with just a few.  After that we will pour some sugar on top for the hopes that many people have for what could prove to amaze gamers.

Happy New Year – Here Comes The Rumor Boom!

What Could Disappoint?

1. Poor Hardware Design – The Red Ring of Death and the Yellow Light of Death are now synonymous with bad console design and ventilation for GPUs (video processors) that get more powerful and hotter as they run.  While both consoles (the XBox 360 and the Playstation 3) were able to eventually fix some of the design issues the numerous consumer issues will not be easily forgotten.

2. Release Day Games Will Be Bare Bones – For those of you unfortunate souls that got Madden 06 on the XBox 360 it will be fairly fresh in your head how terrible bare the game was as it came out for the 360.  The worst part about the excitement of a new console is that once you start paying more attention to what is lacking in sports games the more you will resort to playing the game  on your older console.

3. More Lazy Gaming Development – If the 360/PS3 generation will be remembered for anything it will be for the complete dependency on patches for almost every game.  Some games were rendered unplayable by some bugs.  Other games were had glitches that simply made gamers laugh.  The moral of this sad story is that now that many gamers have the ability to download patches console developers are using this as a crutch to release half-cocked efforts for millions of consumers.

Madden 14 – You Already Know It’s Coming

We will start with the acknowledgement that Madden 13 has been the best Madden game released this generation.  While there have been numerous issues with broken CPU AI and some of the animations – it has been a decent game after all is said and done.

The Madden series has proven to be one of the more hit or miss titles during this generation of consoles.  What should worry Madden gamers the most is how much the game has started to fall into the depth of corporate decision-making and microtransactions.  Madden 13 had some new physics added but it was so overexagerated at times that it could almost make you wonder if you were playing some sort of war game with small nuclear explosions.

Madden 14 will be announced during the Super Bowl as it always is and that is really the downfall of sports gaming (and now even FPS games).  Developers know that many gamers will be okay with some annual polish to the same game they have played for years.  EA Sports is starting to become the first of what will be many studios to move to a complete assembly line structure of putting a new stamp on an old product.

What Could Be Great?

The one thing many people are hoping for is a movement towards smarter AI and better physics in games as they come out.  While no one should expect release date games to be among the best that the console will ever have, there should be hopes for new consoles to come out with games that will make us put our old consoles in the closet (or on eBay).

We will talk more on some of the hopes and dreams for the next console once they start leaking more than just pretty pictures.

EA Sports and Madden Exposed – Former Developer Vents On Twitter

Madden NFL has been scrutinized more by hardcore fans over the last few years of the XBox 360/PS3 era than at any other point.  This is largely because the ability to communicate over the internet via forums and social media has taken off, but it isn’t just because of the ease of communication. However, there are some things that are said that come straight from people ‘on the front’ that can’t be ignored.

Over the last couple years we have seen some of the top names at EA Tiburon (Madden’s development group) leave for greener pastures.  When Madden 10 was in development it was one of the first times Madden Fans got the chance to truly interact with the developers.  Ian Cummings opened a lot of doors for the fan-base to openly communicate have have a voice (even if just the illusion of a voice).  By the time Cummings left EA and Phil Frazier took over as one of the primary HNICs (he was already one of the top guys on the team) there were people from the Madden community hired by EA to help make the game better… or were they?

Mr. Dembroski was/is a tremendously informative hardcore football fan with valuable input for the Madden team during community days that were largely started by Cummings.  He was eventually hired to work on Madden in an official capacity.  If you take a look at the chain of posts he has recently made and many of the comments from other past Tiburon developers; you have to wonder if the complaints we are seeing are simply because communication is easier or because the game’s quality and innovation is truly being held back.

It was interesting to read about the people getting lied to in such an open manner.  After reading that tweet I had a moment of clarity.

We (hardcore gamers and corporate consumers) already know we are being lied to by the companies in question. 

It doesn’t matter which game you are talking about.  By the time your favorite game goes ‘corporate’ or ‘mass market’ it is no longer a question of how to make the game better.  It is a question of how to sell more games to more people every. single. year.  The worst part about this is the fact that the consumer always loses when companies start using statistics and metrics to determine the development of any product – especially video games.

While some people might look at the comments from past developers of any game as ‘sour grapes’ (which would be easy to do); it should be understood that when it is one person leaving under bad circumstances it is highly probable.  On the other hand, when you have multiple people leaving EA’s development studios on all fronts with bad things to say about the company – it isn’t just sour grapes.  It is a sign that something is terribly wrong with the company.

The biggest sign I saw that EA Sports was going the wrong direction was when they started pushing Ultimate Team.  This is one of the biggest cash-hoarding schemes I have seen in gaming.  It isn’t too dissimilar from Call of Duty or any other shooter releasing map packs other than the fact that with Ultimate Team you are sinking money into created players that expire after using them for so long.  So in reality – it is totally different!  EA Sports is not a company focused on giving the gamer a better experience or a new direction for sports gaming… it is a company dedicated to making money and putting out annual cash cows that can be patched between two and four times because it is easier (more cost effective) to put out a half-finished piece of software and fix major issues than it is to release a quality (and slightly more time consuming) product.

College Football’s Negative Impact On EA’s NCAA Football Franchise

Over the past few years I have been a staunch supporter of NCAA Football over Madden NFL.  EA Sports has truly dropped the ball on both games in multiple ways over this entire generation of consoles (PS3 and 360).  Many can blame the glitches and problems on the apparent dependency that developers have on releasing software updates and patches through online interactions.  While these kind of ‘hot fixes’ are vital to software (including games) it seems to have left the door open to sloppy development over the course of a year.  This isn’t even the biggest problem facing EA’s NCAA Football at this point – it is the college football landscape itself.

Bye Bye BCS… Hello new broken game development.

In case you haven’t paid any attention to college sports over the last few years, there have been teams moving from conference to conference more than Bobby Petrino switches teams (and women).  On top of conference changes and re-alignments, the NCAA has recently approved the move to a new playoff system (finally).  This is welcome news to the people that still pay attention to the NFL’s minor league affiliate, but for gaming fans it is a dreaded issue that is too far into the future to allow them any sort of desire to want to invest in more broken games without any sort of tournament or playoff system for college football gaming.  Why waste time and money on a game that changes faces so often?

College football is a joke in many ways but when it comes to the hypocritical billion dollar deals for the services of ‘amateur’ athletes with coaches that make millions of dollars a year over networks like ESPN – why is it that the gaming end of things is so strangely broken as well?  College football is a farce and NCAA Football is a digital farce that continues the NCAA’s views that making money off of college football is paramount.  The broken BCS system is just as broken in the video game as it is in real life but now there are gamers clamoring for something worse than fixing issues that plague a game… they want options.

Gamers want to edit players, names, conferences, polls, ranking calculations, awards, coaches, CPU intelligence and many other facets of their game.  This is all simply because that whenever EA Sports slaps together their annual sports titles they are constantly closing off customization more than opening it to users for a better experience.  Maybe they should take a look at how much games like Counter-Strike can become huge in the PC market – all because of modders and an active user base.

NCAA Football 13 went from $60 to $45 rather quickly this year.  It was as if it was a hyped up movie that hit theaters for a week before going to DVD and your local Big Lots bargain bin.  EA Sports has proven over this generation of consoles that there is no level too low for them to stoop in terms of laziness and development to keep your money coming in with their effort consistently falling.  This isn’t to say that Madden NFL doesn’t have issues mind you (we will hit that later) – but with the NCAA season coming to a close and many college football fans looking to next year we must wonder – what is EA going to do in NCAA 14 that will keep gamers from thinking “I’ll just wait until next year – if at all.”?

Let the 2K College Football rumors begin.

Developing Players In Madden 13

We recently talked about building your team in Madden 13.  There are many different ways to do this strictly by picking up talented players that

You can help save these players without a team. Please just make sure you take the time to play with them!

are rated as such.  On the flip-side, there are also many other players out there that are diamonds in the rough.  You can make it your mission to take some players out of the late rounds of the draft or even pick them up during the preseason as other teams give up on them because of low overall ratings.

You need to take some chances on players you might not know about and that will often mean scouring the free agent market during the pre-season for a player that could make all the difference for you in the current season or simply develop him into a future star.

There are a few different ways to look for a player that might ‘fly under the radar’.  The first is to look at position specific ratings and determine if they are what you are looking for in a player at that position.  Assuming you even need someone at that position.

Quarterbacks are some of the easier ones to look for as far as ratings go, but they will often be the first ones to go during the preseason.  Look at their Throw Power and Throwing Accuracy ratings.  If you run a West Coast offense you don’t need a QB with 95+ THP, but you do need them to have good-to-great accuracy when throwing short and medium routes.  If you prefer a more vertical passing attack, you will want someone with a higher THP (like 95+) and a better accuracy for deep passes.  The moral of the story is – If the shoe fits, pick up the QB you need.  As you develop a QB you should focus on improving their passing ratings first rather than some sort of speed increases.

Runningbacks are a different breed when it comes to determining what is a ‘steal’ (assuming you need one).  The first thing you will notice is that developing a runningback will be costly if you want to increase their SPD rating.  If you want a ‘fast’ HB, make sure he is fast before you pick him up.  As well, pay close attention to his ratings in Carrying and Injury/Toughness.  A decent HB can have his season and career derailed if he takes a shot from a powerful MLB or Safety.  The ratings for a HB that need to be increased in order to develop their market value are the AWR and Carrying ratings.  Use your XP on these and your HB will be a force to be reckoned with… or traded in his late 20’s.

Receivers are among the most common diamonds in the rough.  They are also the easiest to stock up on and never use… therefore, losing a roster spot just to carry a potential talent.  Receivers need to have the obvious CTH (catch) rating, but they also need to have a few others that you can easily build up if you get them enough playing time and touches.  The AWR rating is something that can effect a WR as he needs to be able to know when the ball is thrown and where to run his routes.  Also, there is an issue of getting your potential diva WR the ball often enough to build him up.  I am currently in a situation where I have eight (8) WRs on my team.  I have turned the Browns into a pass first team, but in the process I have also over-stocked my team with WRs.  Here are a few of my current project players –

Offensive Line is another easy place to upgrade players, but you should really make sure you draft them with great ratings first.  It isn’t often you will put an under-rated O-Lineman on the field to protect your QB.  On the other side of this argument, you can always grab a lineman with great strength and size, put him on the line and try to dominate with the running or passing game (whichever is his focus for XP) and develop him in that fashion. 

The hardest players to develop are Defensive Linemen and Linebackers.  The reason being that they develop most of their XP through tackling statistics.  The issue is that tackling stats are broken in Madden 13 and the interactions between defensive players and offensive blockers is shaky at best.  You will want to increase the Tackle ratings first and then move on to increase every player to ‘Big Hitter’ status so they cause more fumbles as well as increasing their Hit Power ratings.

Depending on what type of coverage you run for your defensive backs you will want to focus on their coverage ratings as well as their press ratings.  If you are running a lot of man-coverage with your CBs you will want to increase their MCV ratings first as well as their Press rating if they are a physical type of player.  Their XP is generally determined by how many INTs they get during the course of the year and if you can develop a talented defensive backfield you will be almost unstoppable.

When it comes to safeties you will want to look at how you have them playing as well.  I have a defense made up of ‘enforcers’ like Laron Landry and TJ Ward… if you come across the middle you will end up with a broken jaw because these are like Honey Badgers… they don’t give a s**t!  Make sure you up their Zone Coverage ratings as well as their tackling and hit power as they are often the last line of defense if someone does get past your front-seven.  The last thing you want are a bunch of DBs trying to ‘tackle’ like Deion Sanders.

Kickers require a lot of field goals in order to increase their stats.  The bad thing about this is that most people want to score touchdowns rather than kicking a lot of FGs.    Whenever you want to increase your kick power you will notice that it starts to get really expensive after awhile.  Your best bet is to pick up a kicker with a high kick power rating starting off.

Punters are along the same lines as kickers.  How many teams really ‘want’ to punt?  Try to pick up these players as you go and hope that they have the high kick power ratings that you need rather than try to build them up.

Building A Team In Madden 13 – More Than Just ‘Overall’ Ratings

Now that Madden 13 finally has the patches needed to make it a truly complete game we can start talking more about how to approach different modes.  In the case of Connected Careers Mode there are numerous ways to approach how to build your team as a coach.

Building your team starts with getting the right pieces in place.

I started a career with the Kansas City Chiefs and somehow took them to a Super Bowl victory with Romeo Crennel in my single player Online Franchise ‘Romeo’s Thinkin’ Arbys’.  After winning the big game in my first season I wanted to move on with a new coach in a new (and more challenging) situation.  Naturally, I went with the Browns and started my first off-season by trying to get players to fulfill stop-gap roles for my first season.  Then finally, I got to the draft… aka – the best part of building your team.

Drafting Your Team

It is more than simply taking the best-available player.

You need to consider what your team truly needs when you start drafting players.  This includes scouting during the season as well.  As a coach, you will need to pay close attention to the contract statuses of your players and how they are performing for you.  Taking a Quarterback when you really need a Defensive End or Linebacker could make your team suffer.  In this same breath, you should also compare the players by their ratings and their size.

Also, if you want a cheap way to scout for players that will be highly rated on your team, make sure you spend the 25 scouting points on ‘Scheme’.  This will be something you can use as you go through the year to set up your potential draft picks.

Free Agency

Over the course of my current CCM I have come across a few free agents that intrigued me.  The best pick-up I have made is WR, Leonard Hankerson for the Browns in 2013.  He came in as a replacement for my injured rookie WR and ended up leading the team in receiving yards, TDs and got himself a huge contract in the off-season.  Keep your eyes open for players that perform well when playiing for you.  Sometimes a player might not be ‘a good fit’ but he could end up becoming exactly what you need to turn things around.

Release Failed Project Players

One of the hardest things to do in sports games is to part with players that you either like in real-life or simply want to develop in the game.  Some of them just don’t pan out or under-perform over the course of time.  You have to make those tough decisions and understand that the betterment of your team is the long-term goal.

Pick A Starter… and stick with him

One of the parts of CCM in Madden 13 is progressing players based on their performance on the field.  Make it your mission to look at the goals being set for all of your starters and try to develop your players through that system.

Madden 13’s Biggest Gameplay Problems

Chances are good that Urlacher will get injured when he crushes AP… why? Because Madden 13’s injuries are broken… or random at best.

Madden 13 has a lot of potential to be one of the best Madden games every made – if not the best.  However, there are still some things that are occurring that make for a rather annoying experience.  Here are a few –

CPU Play Calling – While this isn’t truly ‘gameplay’ it is something that you have to deal with every single moment of a single player game.  It seems as if the CPU Coaching Staff was programmed to mimic Pat Shurmur.  Why is it that on 3rd and long the CPU will almost always pick either a running play or a passing play with routes that are 3-5 yards short of what is needed for a first down?  The CPU play calling AI has always been bad in Madden, but this kills the experience when you are playing in a tight game and they seemingly throw in the towel.

The CPU Running Game Doesn’t Exist – No matter what you do in Connected Careers, it is almost impossible to face the CPU without dominating their runningbacks.  This is an issue that involves bad blocking and seemingly immobile runningbacks.  It is a constant struggle to feel like you have having a legitimate experience when you end up crushing the opposition every time they try to run the ball.

Human Pass Rush Is Unstoppable – I am currently playing a single player online CCM with the Browns.  Jabaal Sheard has 23 sacks through 12 games.  Chances are good that he will finish the season with over 30 sacks and this is without ever controlling him.  The funny thing is that I picked up Shawne Merriman in the pre-season to play RE (opposite of LE, Sheard) and he has zero sacks.  Sure, he is constantly facing the opponent’s best blocker, but to have ZERO sacks is almost laughable.

Left Ends Are Beasts – For some reason EA Tiburon has had a major problem programming the blocking in Madden.  This was something that was pushed strongly for by the community for Madden 13 in the new Infinity Engine.  It never made it into the final build and the interactions between lineman are still showing this lacking development.  If you have a somewhat decent Defensive Left End – prepare to dominate and set records almost every year.

WR Drops Are Infuriating – In one game I counted over 14 drops by my receivers.  This was a major issue in the demo and seems to still be a major issue in the game.  While these dropped passes might not keep you from defeating a seemingly stupid CPU AI Opponent, they can ruin your experience as you are being artificially prevented from having great games (even if they aren’t ‘sim’ with your receivers).  You can move the WR Catch slider but you shouldn’t have to do this.

Injuries Are Random and Silly – After crushing Mike Vick in week one with D’Qwell Jackson it was Jackson, not the injury-prone Vick that ended up on the injury report with a torn achilles.  What makes it better is that his foot never really hit the ground as he made the tackle.  Vick on the other hand was twisted up like a pretzel and was smashed into the ground.  He got up… Jackson didn’t.  Please, for the love of all things football – fix the injury system in Madden!