Loyal fans, innovation and more about ‘Madden'

Langston Wertz Jr. sat down with Libe Goad, editor of GameDaily. com, to get her thoughts about the game, the franchise and the “Madden” haters, who bash it no matter what.

Q. Is this the year EA Sports finally is going to make all the “Madden” haters happy? Did they get it right?

Even though people are vocal about disliking “Madden”, it's still the best-selling sports game of all time, and every year, the developers work hard behind the scenes to keep their fans happy. Unless the final version of the game is completely broken, or the online portion of the game has problems, anyone who liked “Madden NFL 08” will also be happy with “Madden NFL 09.”

Q. How is it different than in years past?

This year, “Madden” is more about accessibility than ever before. We always joke that the “Madden” game guide is as thick as the Bible, and it's got a huge learning curve. This year, EA's trying to give the game wider appeal by including an intelligent difficulty scaling system, called “Madden IQ,” and a robust tutorial system.

Q. Over the years, EA has been accused of simply fine-tuning the next year's release and not putting adequate effort into innovation. Do you agree with this, and does this game get away from that?

That's a valid complaint, but I am always amazed that year after year, people will go pay $60 for the new game.

We've repeatedly asked the “Madden” team when they'll just start offering roster updates and – so far – they've said never! We speculate it has something to do with game retailers (which are very powerful in the games biz), but I'm certain the “Madden” crew's tune will change once digital distribution starts to be more viable for video games.

Q. Has it hurt or helped that EA has had the NFL license and virtually no competition?

For the consumer, I'd say it hurts, since there's no competition to keep the game makers on their toes. That's not to say that EA Sports doesn't give 100 percent effort to make the best game, but we all know competition tends to drive real innovation.

Q. Glimpse into your crystal ball. How much longer does the “Madden” franchise continue, and what changes would you like to see?

“Madden” means football game as much as Kleenex means tissue – it's the call brand for football video games. So it's hard to imagine the series going away anytime in the next 20 years.

I would like to see the EA Sports guys finally make a really scalable version of “Madden” that users buy once and then send out updates via download, some free and some bigger ones (annual roster updates, etc.) for a nominal fee. Massively multiplayer games like “World of Warcraft” do this already. Why can't “Madden”?

Rather than forcing devoted fans to pay big money every year, this download/update system rewards them for their loyalty. And – someday – would be great to literally not be able to tell the difference between a real-life football game and a “Madden” game.

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