The Franchise
August 5, 2010 10:24 AM   Subscribe

ESPN takes a look at how Madden NFL became a franchise video game.
posted by reenum (48 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
... and Tecmo Bowl franchise slipped into obscurity.

Drat. Nothing.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 10:26 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


By opting to pay the NFL for exclusive rights and thus being able to avoid competing on merits with the 2K franchise.
posted by oddman at 10:32 AM on August 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


By opting to pay the NFL for exclusive rights and thus being able to avoid competing on merits with the 2K franchise.

Pretty much.
posted by unixrat at 10:47 AM on August 5, 2010


an old story I heard, possibly apocryphal.

when they first approached Madden, and were discussing the terms for his participation, they didn't have a lot of money. They offered him a choice. $50,000 right now or a stake in the company, with nothing in advance. Allegedly, Madden looked at them and said, "boys, if you want the coach, you pay the coach." he took the $50,000. If he'd taken a share in EA, he'd be a billionaire by now. Obviously, he still gets likeness rights and compensation, but it's nothing compared to what he could have made. Allegedly.
posted by shmegegge at 10:49 AM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


also, the story of The Madden Curse is fascinating.
posted by shmegegge at 10:50 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not a sports gamer, except for racing games, but I marvel at EA's production capability. Here's a series of multiplatform games that come out on time every year, with new features every year, and makes a ton of money every year.

I can't think of another entertainment franchise, across any medium, that manages to do that. What do you compare it to? A sit com? Law & Order? They aren't, say, inventing a new camera and costume department every season ...

That said, EA does this in part by grinding their people into a fine powder and sprinkling it in each box. At least the camera guy on Law & Order shoots gets a day off from time to time ...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:52 AM on August 5, 2010


Before scoring a game-winning touchdown last season, Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley killed clock by running parallel to the goal line, an unconventional move familiar only to anyone who has ever picked up a control pad.

Yep.

My first year was '94. Took the '85 Bears when they had legacy teams. In the Superbowl, I put Richard Dent on the kickoff team and he stripped the opening kickoff and ran it in.

Love that game. They cover every angle. I'm a huge NFL fan and they really get it like it is.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:02 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


NFL 2K5 was my favorite football game. There. I said it.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:11 AM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Before scoring a game-winning touchdown last season, Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley killed clock by running parallel to the goal line, an unconventional move familiar only to anyone who has ever picked up a control pad.

I wouldn't go so far as to say "familiar only to"... Both Maurice Jones-Drew and Brian Westbrook have gone down at the 1 rather than score a TD when up at the end of the game, giving their team 4 more downs to kill the clock. That's just a hop skip and a jump away from the move Stokley pulled. Which is admittedly something people do in Madden.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:12 AM on August 5, 2010


You kids today with your Maddens and what have you! What's wrong with a nice game of Atari Football?*

* The answer is "everything."
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:15 AM on August 5, 2010


shmegegge: an old story I heard, possibly apocryphal.

Actually, ahem, from the article:

In 1988, "John Madden Football" was released for the Apple II computer and became a modest commercial success. Ybarra had already left the project to make adventure games. Burned out, he didn't watch real-life pro football for an entire season. Meanwhile, a jubilant Hawkins approached Madden.

Hawkins: "You stayed with me. EA is about to have an IPO [initial public offering]. You can have as much stock as you want."

Madden: "What do you mean by 'have'?"

Hawkins: "Well, you have to buy it -- at the IPO price."

"Hell, I'm just a football coach," Madden says now. "I pointed with my finger, all knowing, and said, 'I gave you my time. I'm not giving you my money.' I showed him!"

From 1989 to 1999, EA's share price went from $7.50 to $70. Madden laughs. "That was the dumbest thing I ever did in my life."

posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:16 AM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Here's a series of multiplatform games that come out on time every year, with new features every year, and makes a ton of money every year.

I can't think of another entertainment franchise, across any medium, that manages to do that.


Just in video games, the Dragon Quest and WWE Smackdown [vs RAW] series came to mind as I was reading this comment.
posted by jtron at 11:18 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't "do" video games, and can't endure more than five minutes of football per season, but that was a great read. Thanks!
posted by notsnot at 11:24 AM on August 5, 2010


That said, EA does this in part by grinding their people into a fine powder and sprinkling it in each box.

When I worked there, we would sometimes go to the mall for lunch, and then browse the shelves at EB Games. I saw a woman buying the game we had worked on, and I said, "You know, our literal blood and sweat are on that disc." (Not really; the discs aren't made there. And there was very little bleeding.) She was a little freaked out by that, and I assured her I was kidding.

I'm not a sports gamer, except for racing games, but I marvel at EA's production capability.

For all their faults, I will give EA this: they know how to hire fantastically talented people.
posted by Sibrax at 11:26 AM on August 5, 2010


I can't think of another entertainment franchise, across any medium, that manages to do that.

Other EA Sports games: NBA Live, NHL, FIFA, and my personal favorite, NCAA Football1.



1. Which, this year, features on its cover the person I see as the single worst creature alive on this planet I call home. So I don't know if I want to buy this year's edition ever. Only if it has compelling features. And I mean seriously compelling.
posted by grubi at 11:27 AM on August 5, 2010


Awesome article. I had Madden '92 for Sega Genesis back then and played the living hell out of it. I looked at a recent version and vaguely recognized one or two elements of the game, but, like most current videogames, it's just too fucking complex for a geezer like me to grasp.
posted by briank at 11:29 AM on August 5, 2010


This is probably as good a place as any to ask this question where people might actually know the real answer...

When I was a kid I loved EA games. The concepts, the graphics, the packaging. This would be the early 80s, and my C64 loved loved loved things like Pinball Construction Set, Mail Order Monsters (OH GOD SOMEONE PLEASE REMAKE THIS FOR MODERN SYSTEMS), and M.U.L.E. Somewhere along the line, they changed from cool games from cool creators in cool packaging to mainstream games from anonymous creators in tedious packaging.

Why the change? Was it Trip Hawkins going off to 3DO?
posted by jtron at 11:35 AM on August 5, 2010


Tiger Woods.
posted by box at 11:41 AM on August 5, 2010


"I marvel at EA's production capability. Here's a series of multiplatform games that come out on time every year, with new features every year, and makes a ton of money every year."

A big, HUGE, reason for the success of their sports games has nothing to do with EA. People often by the new Maddem, et al., just to get the updated rosters, logos, colors, etc. for each new season.
posted by oddman at 11:50 AM on August 5, 2010


For all their faults, I will give EA this: they know how to hire fantastically talented people.

Well, yes, because half the kids coming out of school want to be video game designers. There are 50 bright-eyed young things vying for every open position, and even if we accept Sturgeon's Law for CS undergrads, there's bound to be a couple of gems in there. As an added bonus to EA, with 50 people applying for every position, most of whom are willing to work 80-hour weeks for less than industry-standard pay, current employees might feel a bit pressured not to gripe too loudly about the execrable working conditions.
posted by Mayor West at 11:50 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Which, this year, features on its cover the person I see as the single worst creature alive on this planet I call home. So I don't know if I want to buy this year's edition ever. Only if it has compelling features.

I was having this very conversation with a friend while he was kicking my ass around Whistling Straits in Tiger '11 via XBox Live. We agreed that while it was dismaying to buy a game w/ Tebow (or Tiger) as the coverboy, if EA had made "Hitler Golf '11!" or "Pol Pot's College Football!" we'd probably end up buying them anyway because a) the games don't suck and b) if you want to play videogame versions of golf or college football with your pals online, there are no other options.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:00 PM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I can't buy any EA game anymore without thinking of the human cost spent to develop it. I had a professor who worked at EA and would spend long class periods ranting about them (which was entertaining) and he practically gave me a pass to pirate the games. EA had basically reduced him to a shell of a man, and he was mostly involved in the planning/coordination end of things, not the actual coding and production.

It's like buying diamonds and knowing they're conflict free, I have to know if the company is treating their people right.
posted by hellojed at 12:01 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell, anecdata: I can't speak to his pay, but a school mate of mine went to work at EA in Montreal and ended up on the snowboarding game (one of the later versions of 1080?).. He doesn't seem to work excessive hours at all and they often get beer. He's still with them five years later.
posted by mbatch at 12:03 PM on August 5, 2010


Back in 1993 on the SNES my specialty play was the fake field goal. It was a passing play but I'd run it instead for 15+ yards every time. And it worked all over the field. On my own 30 yard line, 4th and 16? Fake Field Goal.
posted by yeti at 12:09 PM on August 5, 2010


Hitler Golf '11!

...I think we found a way around licensing fees...
posted by yeti at 12:10 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


One way they make so much money is not paying for retired players likeness rights.

And as others have alluded to, there's the year round crunch time that churns through programmers. Things are supposedly a bit better since the whole EA Spouses thing got publicized, but I doubt it's helped that much.
posted by kmz at 12:23 PM on August 5, 2010


I love video games, I love football, and yet I don't care for Madden. It's simply too much a simulation, and not enough a game. I'm hopeful the new features - includidng where you get a limited playbook for each game and can have a coach calling plays for you - will dial down the tedium and dial up the fun.
posted by schoolgirl report at 12:59 PM on August 5, 2010


Also: bring back CyberBall.
posted by schoolgirl report at 12:59 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish EA Sports made the Tiger Woods golf game Cartman and his friends played on South Park. Golf is so boring!

We used to love the Madden games but haven't played them for years. Seriously considering FIFA World Cup, though.
posted by misha at 1:04 PM on August 5, 2010


I hate Madden and what it has done to the Video Game football community. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the Super Nintendo games, when NFL 2K came out it totally blew my mind. By the time the last football 2K game came out (at the cost of only $20) it was totally destroying Madden on each and every facet. EA then bought the NFL rights and the rest is history.

Not coincidentally I havent bought a football game since. I hate the fact that they totally shut down the competition and I shudder to think that it could happen with the NBA and the MLB if EA desired to also buy absolute rights to design video games from each franchise.

I hate the fact that the EA developers didn't compete with a product but decided to shut down the competition altogether. What do we get every year? Minor improvements in graphics....some new useless feature (hey now the quarterback gets to look down the field!), and 5 year old engine.....

I hate EA!
posted by The1andonly at 1:12 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


There are 50 bright-eyed young things vying for every open position, and even if we accept Sturgeon's Law for CS undergrads, there's bound to be a couple of gems in there.

Ah, but that's my point. It wasn't a couple, it was a majority. Even compared to other game studios, they remain the best people I've worked with. But I was not in any way defending EA's practices.

A big, HUGE, reason for the success of their sports games has nothing to do with EA. People often by the new Maddem, et al., just to get the updated rosters, logos, colors, etc. for each new season.

You'd probably think that since the game shipped, it must be pretty stable, right? That they can just build on that stability the next year? Nope, the code is broken on day one of the next cycle. You wouldn't believe how much work goes into just maintaining it.
posted by Sibrax at 1:17 PM on August 5, 2010


You wouldn't believe how much work goes into just maintaining it.

Not to mention integration of new effects (the players sweat!) and new models (someone has to get out there and cyberscan all the rookies).
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:26 PM on August 5, 2010


Also: bring back CyberBall.

amen.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:38 PM on August 5, 2010


we'd probably end up buying them anyway because a) the games don't suck and b) if you want to play videogame versions of golf or college football with your pals online, there are no other options.

Indeed. NCAA Football (every version I've played, 2004-today) is my favorite console game of all time.
posted by grubi at 1:43 PM on August 5, 2010


I shudder to think that it could happen with the NBA and the MLB if EA desired to also buy absolute rights to design video games from each franchise.

Interesting that you mention MLB; EA Sports has been shut out of MLB games for years now. The only non-EA sports-oriented game I have is MLB The Show.
posted by grubi at 2:27 PM on August 5, 2010


The thing about the Madden Curse is that anybody who appears on the cover of a Madden game ("Madden Roster Update 2010") is going to be at the peak of their career. Particularly given the brutality of football (the average NFL player lifespan is 52), it makes sense that their appearance on a Madden box was would shortly followed by injury and/or decline.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:11 PM on August 5, 2010


jtron: "This is probably as good a place as any to ask this question where people might actually know the real answer...

When I was a kid I loved EA games. The concepts, the graphics, the packaging. This would be the early 80s, and my C64 loved loved loved things like Pinball Construction Set, Mail Order Monsters (OH GOD SOMEONE PLEASE REMAKE THIS FOR MODERN SYSTEMS), and M.U.L.E. Somewhere along the line, they changed from cool games from cool creators in cool packaging to mainstream games from anonymous creators in tedious packaging.

Why the change? Was it Trip Hawkins going off to 3DO?
"

Adventure Construction Set.
posted by Splunge at 4:17 PM on August 5, 2010


The thing about the Madden Curse is that anybody who appears on the cover of a Madden game ("Madden Roster Update 2010") is going to be at the peak of their career. Particularly given the brutality of football (the average NFL player lifespan is 52), it makes sense that their appearance on a Madden box was would shortly followed by injury and/or decline.

Culpepper was only in his 4th season (24) when the curse bit him. So was Vick (24). And VY was 25. QBs are supposed to make their biggest strides in years 2-3 and don't generally peak until much later.

From this fantasy nerd site I just found:

Less than 15% of all quarterbacks peak before the age of 25. In fact,almost 35% of all QBs have their best statistical season after their 30th birthday... The data shows most top-tier QBs reach their prime between 27 and 33.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:42 PM on August 5, 2010


Again, the curse isn't that they eventually decline... it's that they decline or are injured the very same year.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:45 PM on August 5, 2010


I agree with you about the runningbacks though, as they generally appear after they put up monster seasons and there is tons of data suggesting they decline or are injury prone the next year after receiving so many touches because of the amount of abuse their position takes. See the curse of 370.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:48 PM on August 5, 2010


Never did like Madden, Mutant League Football needs a revival.

Which, this year, features on its cover the person I see as the single worst creature alive on this planet I call home.

Did he kick your puppy? He wouldn't even break my top 100.
posted by Tenuki at 5:37 PM on August 5, 2010


The EA NHL series has a curse too.
posted by Jaybo at 10:11 PM on August 5, 2010


Did he kick your puppy? He wouldn't even break my top 100

Long story, but essentially he represents the polar opposite of nearly everything I stand for, as well as being the progeny and scion of a family of complete bastards.

so there's that.
posted by grubi at 5:52 AM on August 6, 2010


I have fond, fond memories of Madden '96 for SNES. There were only a few defenses that would stop the Halfback Toss. I was regularly putting up 1,000 rushing yards per game.
posted by hwyengr at 12:36 PM on August 6, 2010


Not a gamer, not a fan of Yankee football, but I really enjoyed this article.

*Creates CFL video game, which consists mainly of finger puppets and colourforms*
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:13 AM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


For the record, Tim Tebow has just thrown his first pass for the Denver Broncos against a live opponent and his delivery looks exactly the same as it did in college. Long and low, a dead ringer for Satchel Paige.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:30 PM on August 15, 2010


self link i guess but here are some screencaps i took of tebow's "new and improved" motion.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:24 PM on August 15, 2010


Dear God, that guy is such a tool.
posted by grubi at 9:31 AM on August 17, 2010


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