Although the criticism was expected, after EA snagged the
exclusive NFL rights the dev team at Tiburon took it to heart and
made sure the industry knew that the next Madden would get
the treatment it and its fans deserved, competition or no. The
hard work seems to be paying off, as Madden 06 is off to a very
Although official August numbers are not yet available, all signs
seem to indicate that Madden NFL 2006 is a monster, even by
Madden standards. EA released a statement just one week after
06's release, stating that the previous seven days represented
"the biggest week one launch of a Madden NFL Football game in
the franchise's sixteen-year history."
The fact that EA's financial clout allowed them to snatch up
exclusive rights to the NFL, NCAA, and Arena Football licenses
certainly accounts for some of Madden's sharp increase in sales
this fall, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Developer Tiburon
didn't view 06 as an opportunity to take a year off despite no
longer having any competition, and EA's marketing team seemed
equally intent on growing sales, through the powerful "X days
until Madden" ad campaign.
Welcome to Madden Country
"People say that baseball is America's pastime, but not in the
videogame world. For gamers, football is. Madden is," Electronic
Gaming Monthly's News Editor Bryan Intihar told GameDAILY BIZ.
August NPD results will tell the full story, but according to EA's
internal data, 1.7 million copies of Madden were sold in just one
week. In 2004 EA released a similar press release one week after
Madden launched, touting its record-breaking (at the time) sales
of 1.35 million copies.
Yet in 2004, Madden was not the only football title on the
market. Take-Two's NFL 2K series put significant pressure on EA
Sports' flagship title with its high quality and $20 price point.
NFL 2K5 sold 791,000 copies in its first month of availability,
which seems to indicate that this year's week-one Madden sales
hike of 350,000 copies is really nothing more than the franchise
swallowing up sales that would have likely gone towards NFL
"I believe 2K, with its $20 price point, reintroduced many gamers
to football videogames, who hadn't purchased one in years -- it
widened the potential market. Now this fall those gamers are
sticking around and crossing over to Madden," Intihar said.
Tiburon's Tough Position
Madden developer Tiburon fell under a lot of unfair fire after the
NFL exclusivity was first announced in December. The
conclusion reached by most message board denizens seemed
reasonable enough -- no competition would lead to
complacency, and a lowered amount of creativity/quality. Take-
Two seemed to agree, stating that the deal does a "tremendous
disservice to the consumers... by limiting their choices and
curbing creativity" shortly after the deal was announced.
Although Tiburon was undoubtedly extremely pleased to hear
that they and they alone had the rights to use NFL League assets
and player likenesses, it wasn't a deal they were responsible for.
06's ambitious enhancements and additions to last year's
Madden seemed to be aimed directly at those who insisted the
company would "take a year off" thanks to the absence of NFL
"From a critical point of view the best words to sum up Madden
2006 are 'surprisingly ambitious,'" Intihar said. "They took
chances that people didn't expect, and really wanted to prove
everyone wrong. Changing the passing game was massive.
Tiburon brought out the media to see the game a month and a
half early, to prove to everyone that they were not just taking the
The Big Get Bigger
While Tiburon has (rightly) been commended for continuing to
innovate in significant ways despite this being the sixth Madden
released for the current generation of consoles -- not to
mention no longer having any competition -- most reviewers
agreed that the developer might have bitten off a little more
innovation than it could refine in just one year. 06's reviews
were markedly lower than 05's.
At the end of the day, Madden 2006 is likely to significantly
outsell Madden 2005, despite having a lower review average.
Everyone involved with the product worked hard to prove this
year that NFL exclusivity wasn't going to ruin football gaming,
but it's unlikely that any amount of negative attention would
now be able to dent the franchise.