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End of Console Generations is Not an Excuse for No Innovation

"Innovations will come with the new consoles" has become a popular defense for stale franchises like Madden NFL and NCAA Football, as they continue to improve in marginal and incremental ways instead of making sweeping changes or true innovations during the Xbox 360's and Playstation 3's final hours.

Yet Madden's history, spanning over 20 years and four generations of consoles, suggests that the opposite of "incremental change" should be happening right now.

In all previous console generations, the Madden NFL series reached its creative peak just as veteran systems neared their retirement.
 

End Of The 16-Bit Era: Madden NFL '95


The three years between John Madden Football's console debut and the release of John Madden Football '93 saw no meaningful upgrades to the Madden franchise. It wasn't until Madden NFL '94 that the series started to make significant strides, nabbing the official NFL team rights and introducing a full season mode.

The following year, Madden NFL '95 made the series' biggest gameplay change of the 16-bit era when it gave players the ability to pass the ball without the annoying "passing windows" taking up a third of the screen. It also secured both the NFL and NFLPA licenses for the first time in the game's history, adding to its authenticity. The addition of Fox Sports' theme music and logos also added a "televised feel" to Madden NFL '95. Even the season mode was expanded, offering full stat tracking for all the game's players and teams.
 


Madden NFL '95, arguably the best, most-ambitious version of the 16-bit era, released at a time when the next generation of consoles were already underway in Japan, with both the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation launching in the fall of 1994.

The Playstation and Saturn would be released in America and Europe the following year, and by 1995, Electronic Arts' focus had shifted towards developing for the new systems. The Playstation version of Madden NFL '96 was never released, as it could not pass EA's internal testing standards, marking the only time in Madden's career that a console game had to be cancelled.



End Of The 32-Bit Era: Madden NFL '99


Electronic Arts initially struggled with developing for Sony's and Sega's new hardware, as EA Sports' early crop of games for the Playstation and Saturn were unspectacular. Particularly on the Playstation, many gamers preferred Sony's NFL Gameday series for its 3D polygonal graphics and groundbreaking audio design.

After trailing NFL Gameday in sales for two consecutive years, Madden NFL '99 finally rejuvenated the series in 1998 with one huge inclusion: franchise mode. The 15-season mode featured a yearly four-round draft, player progression, trades, free agency and a realistic rotating schedule.

Other football games before Madden NFL '99 had included multi-season modes, but for many console gamers, Madden NFL '99 was the first exciting look at what would become the sports genre's primary mode of play for the next decade.

Franchise mode was not the only innovation for Madden NFL '99. The game was compatible with NCAA Football '99, to the extent that created NCAA players could be added to the free agent pool in Madden. Compatibility between the two EA Tiburon football games would continue to expand in future editions.

The ability to create custom plays also made its way into Madden NFL '99, a feature that carried over to PS2 versions of Madden but remains inexplicably absent this generation.
 


Madden NFL '99 delivered the series' peak performance for Sony's Playstation and Nintendo's N64 the same year that a new 128-bit console was launching in Japan -- Sega's Dreamcast.

Electronic Arts would take a company-wide stance of not publishing games for Sega's new system, and though Madden would remain strong financially the next few years, the series struggled to match the quality of Sega's new 2K Sports brand while EA Sports underwent the transition from Playstation to Playstation 2.



End Of The 128-Bit Era: Madden NFL 2005

Madden 2005 Box

For anyone who had a Dreamcast, Madden's early Playstation 2 games were forgettable and unremarkable. EA Sports chose to ignore the rapidly growing world of online console gaming until their third Madden release on the system, Madden NFL 2003. It wasn't until Madden NFL 2004 that EA Sports produced the series' first real winner in the 128-bit era. Owner mode and training camp added new life to the stale franchise mode. Offensive "playmaker controls" were a great gameplay addition, though they had the unintended side-effect of imbalancing the game in the offense's favor.

Enter Madden NFL 2005, which addressed the previous game's defensive issues with two new features: defensive hot routes and the fan-favorite "hit stick." Those new defensive tools made Madden NFL 2005 one of the most-balanced entries in the series' history. Arguably, Madden NFL 2005 was the first time in a Madden game where players could enjoy defense instead of feeling frusturated and powerless to stop the offense.

The improvements didn't stop with gameplay, as Madden NFL 2005's franchise mode also received an entertaining new feature with the "Tony Bruno radio show." Bruno's weekly broadcast generated storylines for your franchise based off its week-to-week performance, featuring interviews with players, coaches and crazed fans. Bruno's radio show helped bring a human element to franchise mode, which traditionally has suffered from being overloaded with stats, ratings and text menus.
 

Madden NFL 2005 Back of the Box

Microsoft's Xbox 360 would debut in the fall of the following year, just in time for the release of Madden NFL '06. The Xbox 360 version of Madden NFL '06 would infamously become one of the least-liked and lowest-rated editions in Madden's 20-year history, primarily due to its lack of modes and features.
 

End Of The Current Era: Madden NFL '13


If Madden NFL '13 fails to deliver a great football experience this fall, it won't be because new consoles are looming. Historically, some of Madden's greatest achievements have come when systems are nearing the end of their relevancy, just as the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are now.

With Nintendo's Wii U set for a worldwide 2012 launch, and rumors of Sony's and Microsoft's next consoles launching soon after, the next generation of consoles is imminent.

So if Madden NFL '13 fails to innovate -- if it fails to excite, as no Madden has this generation bar Madden NFL 10 -- do not blame the new consoles, blame developer EA Tiburon's inability to take advantage of the current consoles' technology.


Madden NFL 13 Videos
Member Comments
# 1 wat3 @ 04/10/12 05:07 PM
Is Madden 13 the last Madden before the license expires? I don't want to hear " they're just going to extend" because that's not what I'm asking.
 
# 2 luv_mist @ 04/10/12 05:07 PM
I haven't really been following the Madden series. What innovation did Madden 10 bring?
 
# 3 Gotmadskillzson @ 04/10/12 05:30 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by luv_mist
I haven't really been following the Madden series. What innovation did Madden 10 bring?
Pro Tak, actual gang tackles.
 
# 4 Gotmadskillzson @ 04/10/12 05:35 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Profit89
This series needs to move to the PC if they want to be taken seriously.
True, but they never will. They don't want regular gamers to upstage them. Because they know full well the modding community would do it in a matter of days.
 
# 5 huskerwr38 @ 04/10/12 05:36 PM
Wow, Madden 94 had over 100 Player injuries...we don't even have that now. But, it was fun to take a look back at the history of Madden with photos of the back of the box features.

Also, I think this article kind of shows that Madden might have went the way of NBA Live if not for the exclusive rights. With how bad Madden 06 was for xbox 360, this would have been the perfect time for 2k sports to land a fatal blow to the Madden franchise. Thank goodness for the exclusive rights.
 
# 6 Gotmadskillzson @ 04/10/12 05:44 PM
Much like the NCAA series, the Madden series spent this whole generation playing catch up to the last generation. Adding features we already had last generation back into this generation as new features, when in reality it wasn't.

This generation was nothing but the HD generation for EA Tiborun, because the only thing they improved upon was the graphics and online stability. Game play has been at a stand still for 6 years now.

If it wasn't for online, most people wouldn't even buy Madden or NCAA. And that is the sad truth of it all.
 
# 7 BobbyColtrane @ 04/10/12 05:47 PM
These guys are experts in why the game can't be improved.

If they spent half as much time working on the game as they do changing direction and "monetizing the consumer" this game would be the BALLS...
 
# 8 TreyIM2 @ 04/10/12 05:50 PM
I really don't think Madden needs new innovations because that's what they've been trying to do for far too long with things like the Vision Cone, a repetitive football radio show, that blocking crap they tried to pull, etc. Hit stick was necessary with the advent of dual joysticks because it made no sense not to utilize the extra stick so console control innovation forced that one, so to speak.

I think EA needs to work on completing the basic, core game of football, full circle, first. Things like gang tackling and multiple hit tackles/add on tackling is not an innovation, per se. THAT IS APART OF THE BASIC, CORE GAME OF FOOTBALL, period. We need more of that and the lil things that make football, football more than grandiose not quite needed right now 'innovations' because it almost makes no sense how they don't have those things down pat , yet.
 
# 9 MiNiDiTkA @ 04/10/12 06:35 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by luv_mist
I haven't really been following the Madden series. What innovation did Madden 10 bring?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gotmadskillzson
Pro Tak, actual gang tackles.
 
# 10 rudyjuly2 @ 04/10/12 07:14 PM
I agree. I wish we would see more of an improvement but we won't. Tweak, tweak, tweak until the new consoles come out is crap but it's what we are seeing.
 
# 11 drk3351 @ 04/10/12 07:18 PM
one big difference. Competition. madden 99 had nfl gameday, madden 05 had nfl 2k. now, nothing
 
# 12 DaReapa @ 04/10/12 08:05 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Article
...though Madden would remain strong financially the next few years, the series struggled to match the quality of Sega's new 2K Sports brand while EA Sports underwent the transition from Playstation to Playstation 2...
Not to nitpick, but it was actually Sega's Sega Sports brand - not 2K Sports, as 2K was never realized until the year EA started buying up exclusivity licenses left and right - circa 2004-2005.

Aside from that, I agree with this article, and TBH, never really had much faith in EA Sports this gen. IMO 2K5 was a hard standard to live up to, and Tiburon did very little to even so much as come close.

Off topic, isn't the NCAA exclusivity license up by now??
 
# 13 DaReapa @ 04/10/12 08:07 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by TreyIM2
I really don't think Madden needs new innovations because that's what they've been trying to do for far too long with things like the Vision Cone, a repetitive football radio show, that blocking crap they tried to pull, etc. Hit stick was necessary with the advent of dual joysticks because it made no sense not to utilize the extra stick so console control innovation forced that one, so to speak.

I think EA needs to work on completing the basic, core game of football, full circle, first. Things like gang tackling and multiple hit tackles/add on tackling is not an innovation, per se. THAT IS APART OF THE BASIC, CORE GAME OF FOOTBALL, period. We need more of that and the lil things that make football, football more than grandiose not quite needed right now 'innovations' because it almost makes no sense how they don't have those things down pat , yet.
Totally agree.
 
# 14 RUFFNREADY @ 04/10/12 08:28 PM
If EA uses kincet in this years version; i wil just not buy it.
Lack of innovation will kill the Madden franchis
 
# 15 bigsmallwood @ 04/10/12 08:57 PM
Madden 13 is make or break. This HD gen was all about graphics but sorely lacking in features. EA has to be ashamed about how terrible this next-gen football games have gone. Reselling old features as new is tacky and the excuses just show a true lack of innovation. I really hope Madden 13 is a smashing success in the gameplay/presentation department.
 
# 16 darknmild @ 04/10/12 09:41 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigsmallwood
Madden 13 is make or break. This HD gen was all about graphics but sorely lacking in features. EA has to be ashamed about how terrible this next-gen football games have gone. Reselling old features as new is tacky and the excuses just show a true lack of innovation. I really hope Madden 13 is a smashing success in the gameplay/presentation department.
I hope so too.
 
# 17 DJ @ 04/10/12 11:24 PM
This generation has been almost a complete waste, which is a shame. I used to play Madden year-round; now, I struggle to finish one year of a Franchise.

Oh, and I wanted to make mention of something posted in the article: the back of the box for Madden 95. If you had covered up the year and just showed me that paragraph, I would say yes to buying that game. That was a very nice piece of writing and not only did it tell you about some of the key features of the game, it painted it around a scenario that you, the gamer, could face and you could put yourself in that situation.

Sports games could stand to do more of this type of advertising, as the standard 3-4 photos and very brief descriptions really don't do much to draw in those casual fans.
 
# 18 mestevo @ 04/11/12 01:06 AM
Doesn't this fall squarely into the 'we don't know what all they are doing this year yet' category? Current consoles have known limitations, only so much can be done, but they've made improvements and changes every year.

Who is banging the 'no innovation until next gen' drum anyways? Which seems to be the crux of the entire article.

Below are two screenshots of Madden 11 and of Madden 12, if you think that's merely an incremental change in the way the game looks, from lighting to grass and how he's even holding the ball... there's no point in really going on.

The games aren't perfect (nor were the games in the past), but man, the hyperbole in these threads is getting pretty thick:

"This generation has been almost a complete waste"

"Madden 13 is make or break" (the number just gets incremented every year for this quote)

"If EA uses kincet in this years version; i wil just not buy it." This is the typical OS 'well EA is doing something we are asking them to, but not what I want so it's bad/wrong'

"Tweak, tweak, tweak until the new consoles come out is crap but it's what we are seeing."

I look forward to when the sticky rules are back in force again closer to release.
 
# 19 fearwhatnow @ 04/11/12 02:51 AM
EA needs to act wisely and finally in benefit of their customers.Bring the series on PC and make it mod-friendly.This EA joke about pc piracy must come to an end.Fifa 12 for pc sold very well even if it was a mediocre game especially offline.2kSports sales on pc are good for both NBA and MLB titles all these years.
 
# 20 BlueNGold @ 04/11/12 06:44 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by mestevo
Doesn't this fall squarely into the 'we don't know what all they are doing this year yet' category? Current consoles have known limitations, only so much can be done, but they've made improvements and changes every year.

Who is banging the 'no innovation until next gen' drum anyways? Which seems to be the crux of the entire article.

Below are two screenshots of Madden 11 and of Madden 12, if you think that's merely an incremental change in the way the game looks, from lighting to grass and how he's even holding the ball... there's no point in really going on.

The games aren't perfect (nor were the games in the past), but man, the hyperbole in these threads is getting pretty thick:

"This generation has been almost a complete waste"

"Madden 13 is make or break" (the number just gets incremented every year for this quote)

"If EA uses kincet in this years version; i wil just not buy it." This is the typical OS 'well EA is doing something we are asking them to, but not what I want so it's bad/wrong'

"Tweak, tweak, tweak until the new consoles come out is crap but it's what we are seeing."

I look forward to when the sticky rules are back in force again closer to release.
Yeah, because what's really been holding the series back is graphics.
 

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