April 2, 2008
Madden on the PC – RIP (And Why You Should Care)
I wish I could say I’m shocked, but I’m not.
Yesterday on his blog, EA’s Peter Moore confirmed that Madden 09 will not be released on the PC, because … well, because making games solely for the console is a more efficient way to back the old Brinks truck up to EA’s corporate headquarters, I guess. Officially, it’s being called “serious business challenges in the sports category”.
On one hand, there’s a certain inevitable logic to the numbers. Sales from the console versions of Madden 08 (NPD, August 07) clocked in around 2 million units, almost 900,000 of that on the 360 alone.
Madden on the PC … well, I couldn’t even find firm figures, but Bioshock was the top-selling PC game at around 77,000, so Madden’s PC sales had to be fewer than that. When you’re talking about a platform that doesn’t break 5% of your sales ... if I’m running a business, I’m probably making that same call.
That said, if you look at the history of the franchise, it’s hard not to feel like EA’s got the blinders on a little, and are missing a bigger problem that could bite them in the ass down the road. The fact is, they’ve been charging full-game prices for expansion-pack content for years now – open a new Madden each year, and you get new rosters, some cosmetic upgrades, and one or two minor gameplay tweaks.
Even as they’re doing that, other aspects of the game remain unfixed, enshrined forever in EA’s Canton of Half-Assed Coding. And buying up the exclusive NFL license and effectively driving competition out of the market hasn’t been the best thing for public relations, even if it was the NFL who approached them.
In the console space, none of this has been a problem … yet … because new hardware has driven software sales as people switched to a new platform, and EA’s been able to shed blame for bugs and incomplete features by blaming it on the challenges of developing for the new hardware. In the PC marketplace, the customers have seen the emperor’s new clothes for a while now – they’ve watched as EA put all the development efforts into next-gen while handing PC gamers the same game as last year with a different splash screen.
And now, figuratively and literally, they’ve taken their ball and gone home. Which may be fine on a balance sheet, but ignores a larger customer satisfaction issue – what’s EA going to do when there isn’t a new console to prop up sales and they have to rely solely on the quality of their product? The PC sales figures aren’t just a blip on the radar, they’re Jacob Marley warning Scrooge that those chains itch something fierce.
OK, so why does any of this matter to you? You guys are mostly here for Spore, and the international readers probably don’t give a damn about American football. Points taken.
But consider the broader implications – Madden is one of the 800-lb gorillas of the gaming scene: it’s consistently one of the biggest releases of the year, it has its own TV show (albeit a really stupid one), it’s a game that’s “safe” for gamers to admit they like, it even mainstreamed the concept of the “Maddenoliday”.
Other game companies will be watching this move, and possibly base their own future decisions on how well this turns out for EA. So even if you don’t care specifically about the hand-wringing across Madden Nation, it should at least give you pause as a disturbing sign of possibilities to come.
Posted by Jay McDonald at 4:30 PM
| Comments (10)
| Posted to Business
i've read your article, and still don't see why i should care.
if EA thinks they can stop making games for a certain system, they can do so. they are loosing out on the sales made that way, their loss.
i also imagine that most gamers have a console in addition to their pc, so they will just buy this craptacular game for another system they already own.
and if there's anyone left out, well it's not like this is a must have. personally, i don't care about handball (it's not football, after all), nor do i care to play it virtually when i could rally friends and actually play sports in the real world.
and it's not like you need the NFL license to make a great game based on the sport. i used to live with guys who played sports video games, and they preferred to customize their own team rather than play with the pre-made teams. so why doesn't another developer just make a really good game, since EA apparently isn't, and sell it as a customizable game.
isn't this, after all, where the gaming market is headed? customization for the player and online play seem to be the two key selling points for games right now. nostalgia, references to old but great games, and remakes seem to be another. so a game that plays like the game you love, a clone basically, but lets you make your own team up and play against other players online is what most people would prefer.
so again, why does this matter to us? EA is failing on this decision, it seems they are only loosing sales by limiting system choice. and if this 800-pound gorilla fails, all the better. maybe people will actually go play the sport in the park instead? maybe people will admit they like playing this or that game. frankly, if you mentioned you liked playing madden around the people i hang out with, you'd get laughed at.
I'm not an avid sports gamer (the last good one was 1991 NHL Hockey for the Sega, IMHO), but I really love FOOTball. I love the NFL. I love the Steelers. Which is why I own a couple Madden games myself, and enjoy playing them. Again, I don't care for sports games, but think it's really cool to play with my favorite teams. I'm not spending money on a game where I can play with 'my own special, unique like a snowflake' football team. I want to play as the Steelers, or the Jaguars, or even the Browns...
And yeah, I think the Madden games, or at least an official NFL game, is very important for growing the videogame market.
But yeah, the game in and of itself is great...it's just that, as Nicesocks brought out, who the hell wants to keep on purchasing the same game year-in and year-out for full price? I think a good solution would be to release the new rosters and statistics via Live and PSN every year for like $10-15 from here on out. Although it may cut into EA's short term earnings, it would improve their public image and help their profit in the long run, if Nicesock's predictions prove true. And it'd be sweet for the customer (me!)...
For the last decade or so, the presence of Madden in the PC market has made it very difficult for developers to justify creating a true PC football game, say, in the tradition of Front Page Sports Football. Madden just had too much potential to dominate.
Under other circumstances, this would actually be good news to me, because it would finally open the door for someone to create a true PC-based football game. Unfortunately, thats not the case. Since EA still holds the exclusive NFL license, would-be football PC gamers are left high and dry with nothing - even a console port - to play.
All of that is not to ignore indy developed/text-based sims. FoF, in particular, is a very well-done management sim. But sims of that nature don't even come close to exploiting the PC's potential for a great football game.
I disagree a little bit with the whole "customer satisfaction" issue. EA knows it has a cash cow. It knows that this franchise, no matter what they push out, will sell. It's a lot like a few years ago when anything with a Tycoon appended to the name of the game increased its sales by 50 percent.
Truth is, there are a lot of people who are much like lemmings in the console world that buy games "to have them." My friend never played a Halo game in his life but bought Halo 3 on release day "just to have it." He played for a day or two and shelved it. More than in the PC world, you have people who feel the need to keep up with the video-gaming Joneses. My roommate buys Madden, NCAA, MLB, FIFA, and Tiger Woods every year and plays them for a month and is done with them. He reads negative reviews and still buys them. His collection of games is almost entirely the NCAA/NFL franchise stuff... this is an extreme case, though. If EA released a remake of E.T. on the Atari and called it "Madden 2010", he'd still buy it.
Lots of folks buy these games to be cool, to say they have it. It's a fad and the primary question is "how long will the fad last?" I see the decline of these games coming, as they've done about as much with football and such as they can. New IPs will have to be developed; but while the cash is flowing, EA will continue to feed the addiction to this game genre and this franchise.
Conversely, all that profit allows EA to take risks with games like Spore and Mercs 2. So I guess I have all of those "mindless teenage console lovers" to thank for some truly mind-engaging games to come.
Props to Tron for his last paragraph...EAs a megacorporation in it for the money. The shareholders probably wouldn't let it take too many risks (i.e. Spore) without some reliable cash cow titles under it's belt for stability...but I still think Madden is on the decline, both in quality and sales numbers. People don't buy crap forever. Have you seen any Tycoon games come out lately?
EA kept shovelling Madden from the PS2 on to the PC.
After the release of the xbox 360 there was NO reason for this and it was the ONLY reason I did not buy Madden on the PC.
They took the shoes off of the racehorse and then act surprised when it does not win the race.
For shame EA.
If you like NFL football and you like video games then you probably like Madden. I wouldn't exactly call it a mindless game. There is more strategy in playing Madden than goes into most games.
Madden will live forever. As the graphics get better and better and they keep coming out with new ideas to make it more realistic overall. People will keep buying it.
It allows people who aren't even into video games to get into them. Some people might underestimate how exiting it is to have updated roster and player abilities.
Personally, I only buy about 2 Madden's per console. I had one for N64, 2 for PS2, and will eventually have two for the 360.
Why would you want to play Madden on the PC anyways? The game is best with a controller.
I think it is all right, there are genres that are stronger on certain consoles. Sport games are one of them.
PC has its own great titles, WoW, Sims, and soon to come Spore.
First of all, thanks for the comments. I appreciate the discussion.
To answer one of the easier questions first -- why would you want to play Madden on the PC anyway? -- primarily it's a necessity thing. I travel a lot for work, so I already have a laptop with me, but wouldn't necessarily drag a console (and assorted cables/peripherals) along on the road. I have a 360 at home for the weekends, but my kids play it more than I do. I also happen to think the PC franchise mode is richer than the console equivalent (especially when you factor in the usermod community), but that's a deeper dive than most of you are interested in.
Overall, I can certainly understand that not everyone sees the EA move as a big deal. Some combination of "don't like Madden", "prefer playing on the console", etc. etc. That's cool. I just worry about where the PC platform is headed when a major studio pulls its flagship title. If Madden's not your cup of tea, pretend this post was about Force Unleashed instead (minus the customer service tirade)....
I wouldn't go overboard and predict the death of PC gaming just yet -- as Petike points out, there are certain genres that the PC just does better, and will continue to do better for the forseeable future. But I do wonder what other studios are sitting on the fence that might leap one way or the other based on EA's move here.
The other "glass half full" thought I had is that these things tend to be kind of cyclical. It seems like the PC waxes and wanes a little over the years as a gaming platform, but always seems to hang in there. I think right now, the PC's in a tough spot because a lot of the hardware inertia is in sub-$1000 notebooks with entry-level GPUs so Dick and Jane can go wireless at their local Starbucks; once the Moore's Law screw turns a few more times and puts affordable gaming laptops more in the mainstream, I could see business picking up again on the PC side.
With EA dominating the "copy and paste" code era at the moment. There is only one reason why they would pull the game from this particular format, and its piracy.
If EA make madden and it sells 50,000, the the capital it takes to create its a decent profit for any company. But as has already been stated, the PC community will not pay for Half Assed expansion pack quality and full price, which is what leads to piracy.
Although piracy is a widespread gaming issue and it does not only apply to one but close to all games on PC, theres a common misconception that PC gamers will just pirate softwear. While there are some gamers who will resort to this method, I know personally, and I feel this view would be collectivly shared, that if a game has the time, effort and dedication put into it to make it a worthwhile game, then PC gamers would have no issue in paying for the game.
A perfect example would be Radiohead's latest album, which they released as a free download with donations from downloaders if they wanted to contribute to what was a very good album. The record label took a gigantic leap which in my opinion has not been given enough credit as an effort to revolutionalise the way in which content is delivered to the mass market.
Piracy comes as a near enough direct attack back at the companys who show no respect to the PC community. However, with the Next Gen systems. This will no doubt continue to happen but, I do not see this as a major crysis for the PC gaming community.
A point was made further up rasing the issue of other companys possibly following in EA's footsteps on PC gaming. What these companys will need to understand is EA dominates the Next generation console market and will continue to do so for the next decade im sure. EA can afford to loose this buisiness and in turn deploy and embarrasing strategy of an "anything you can do, i can do better" attitude with the PC gaming Pirates. Other companys will not be able to afford this loss to they're bank balance and will in turn Have to keep releacing games for the PC format.
In future I just hope that more companys will follow radioheads groundbreaking example of how to profit from a free download, and in turn, see a rise in the quality of PC gaming...But I won't keep my hopes up
Please keep your comments relevant to this entry: inappropriate or purely promotional comments may be removed. Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Line breaks and paragraphs are automatically converted — no need to use <p> or <br> tags.