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Monday, August 23, 2010
01:57 PM - August 23, 2010. Written by MMChrisS
You may recall the news story last week from CNBC which declaratively stated that Madden sales were weak this year. The evidence used was early price drops from retailers and weak pre-orders for the title. Not the most concrete evidence for sure, but far from the worst you could use.

I initially wrote a blog post last week on Madden and NCAA sales but pulled it since I thought I might be breaking some copyright laws -- so I had to double check. I found myself to be in the clear, but decided to wait until today to repost this article, reworked and streamlined to eliminate any doubt so it can stay live.

So with that said, let's take a look at the best evidence we have and figure out where both Madden and NCAA are when it comes to sales.

NCAA Football

Depending on which data set you use, you will find that NCAA Football sales are somewhere in between 8% up over last years through the end of July or 8% below last years through the end of last week. That's quite the range in data. I've done some data analysis of my own via both sources and have found that NCAA sales are hovering around flat, starting off relatively strong but weakening as time has gone on.

Madden

Using just VGChartz as our barometer for Madden sales numbers wise, we see Madden sales are actually up 5% in the VGChartz numbers this year. However, XBox 360 sales are down and Playstation 3 sales are way up -- more on that later. Given the discounted price of admission for Madden, and the anticipated statistical deviance, it's definitely too early to say Madden has slipped in sales, but there are warning signs indicating that retailers have had to really push to get Madden off of store shelves compared to previous years.

Rising Console Base -- Falling or Flat Software Sales

Compared to this time last year, the base of console users has risen from 24 million users to 34 million users. However, software sales industrywide are down 30% from their peak!!! What this means is that people are buying and replacing consoles, but they aren't buying many titles. From a business perspective, when a yearly title's sales are hovering around flat when the base of users is rising, that's a bad sign and in a lot of ways, pretty much what falling sales would be like. For a yearly title to actually lose sales in this environment would be quite the failure.

Prognosticating Where Sales End Up

I'm far from THE authority to predict where sales end up with both titles considering the lack of reliable data on this side of the corporate rooms. However, it is important because sales are a referendum on the direction of the product. However, after doing a few days of analysis -- or rather parts of a few days in analysis, I'm not a total geek here people -- I think we will ultimately see sales which disappoint investors. Expect ERTS to get hammered a bit in the Sept/Oct timeframe. Given the very real possibility of more economic trouble into the fall, along with the continued secular shifts in the economy moving dollars away from gaming, I think we'll see Madden and NCAA sales ultimately end up lower than last year, perhaps by a sizeable margin (5-10%). I don't think the suits hit the panic button too quickly, but it'll be a bad thing for hardcore gamers if they do, trust me on that.
Chris is the Executive Editor of Operation Sports and maintains this blog on the site. He is also a native Oklahoman and avid storm chaser. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisSnr.
Blog: MMChrisS
Friday, August 20, 2010
06:04 AM - August 20, 2010. Written by Steve_OS
If any of these links interest you, talk about them.QOTD: The weekend is finally almost here, what are your plans, what games will you be playing?

Happy Birthday to the following OS'ers!

moemoe24 (35), Dante_X (30), triplej96 (28), Tyrell-PMC (25), cha0ss0ldier (23), Wazzup36 (22), wsboan11 (20), chestnutz6
Blog: Steve_OS
Thursday, August 19, 2010
06:31 AM - August 19, 2010. Written by Steve_OS
If any of these links interest you, talk about them.QOTD: Are you the type of person that needs the latest and greatest stuff, or do you wait it out?

Happy Birthday to the following OS'ers!

Badgun (51), mlblover15 (40), jersey07103, Boilerup700, lightningducks30
Blog: Steve_OS
02:35 AM - August 19, 2010. Written by DustinT
I reference to the Seattle Supersonics in a large percent of my articles here on the site. I have received plenty of PMs saying either "Save our Sonics" or "**** Seattle, get over it. OKC!!!!"

I don't respond to many of them, I find them amusing. I'm glad OKC is enjoying an NBA team, every city should. It just shouldn't be my team, Seattle's team. So now I will answer a question that has been asked many times:

Why do you want Sonics jerseys?

It's simple. I want to be able to see the Sonics again. Playing NBA games is my way of controlling a team from every angle. I used to rebuild the Sonics every year, and then we got Durant and it became a reality. Then Clay Bennett swooped down and jacked them.

Last year in NBA Live the jerseys were available, and I loved it. It wasn't the best since you still saw the OKC warm-ups and the commentary kept saying OKC, but it was a step in the right direction. Now both games need to take it a step further. Let myself and other suicidal fans create the Sonics. Give us al our jerseys, give us the city and team name over the commentary. Let us live the dream that we should be living right now. Let us save our Sonics.
Blog: DustinT
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
In case you missed it, Recovery Summer has turned into Realization Summer with stimulus waning and economic indicators all pointing rather solidly downwards. People in every corner of the economy are shuddering at the thought of another downtick (or was that a continuation of the current one?)| but that might just be the new normal for awhile.

Video game publishers, developers, journalists, players, and semi-interested patrons should shudder at that.

Video game sales have effectively collapsed for anything but AAA titles in the past 24 months, and with the prospect of another meaningful contraction in the economy very real -- it could have dire impacts upon the gaming industry as a whole. Here are three things to look for in the next 12 months from video game publishers and specific impacts on sports gaming:
  1. Belt tightening -- We already saw an early example of this with Visual Concepts cutting 30 jobs to "increase efficiency". Don't fool yourselves, this is a direct result of a weakening economic picture and trying to get ready for tougher times and not a result of yearly layoffs. It's also most likely another in a series staff cuts in the gaming realm. I'm pretty glad I'm not an employee at any gaming firm at the present time, because I can only imagine what a fresh 10%+ drop in overall industry sales will do to it.
  2. More focus on money makers -- Look for gaming companies to move towards more profitable projects. The big sellers such as Madden and NBA 2K might get a boost, but the real profits are to be made on the small screen. App Store apps and internet based games are the real winners here. These projects are so efficient to produce and profitable, there's little doubt gaming companies are going to chase after these types of projects to maximize profits. AAA Titles will be a main focus of gaming companies as well, which might leave those titles which made some but not much money in a position where they are no longer making money. That's not a good place to be, for the record.
  3. Give me quality...or a cancellation -- NCAA Basketball was a early death in this philosophy. But look out for any game which isn't extremely profitable, because those games will be the first to go in a fresh round of title cuts by companies such as EA and Take Two. Weakening sales industrywide would place several bigger named titles in a place where they might not be making much money anymore, if any. NBA Elite, NHL 2K, MLB 2K -- you've all been warned.

The outlook isn't all doom and gloom for sports games though, the one good thing a tightening economy will do is force titles which do make it to the shelf to increase in quality since consumers aren't spending their money in a constrained economy. Let's face it, $60 is a lot to spend on something in an uneasy economy, so games will either have to prove themselves to be worthy of the price of entry or the price of entry has to drop. Indeed, it's very possible new games could see a price drop in the coming years if the economic situation continues to be anemic to spur sales. Don't forget that Madden was $40 at a lot of retailers at launch -- if that's not a sign that publishers are trying to spur on sales, I don't know what is.
Chris is the Executive Editor of Operation Sports and maintains this blog on the site. He is also a native Oklahoman and avid storm chaser. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisSnr.
Blog: MMChrisS
Monday, August 16, 2010
04:48 AM - August 16, 2010. Written by Steve_OS
If any of these links interest you, talk about them.QOTD: What is your favorite sports celebration of all-time?

Happy Birthday to the following OS'ers!

roll2tide, [Icy] (35), shanebo, supremeslang (29), sarge81 (29), PadresFan (28), Scott (25), Ermolli (19)
Blog: Steve_OS
Friday, August 13, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
11:53 AM - August 11, 2010. Written by MMChrisS
You may remember my review of Backbreaker, which was pretty harsh. I'm not going to retract that review, because the original Backbreaker was a steaming pile of horse manure when it came to the Xs and Os of football.

Now after spending some time with the 'Greathouse' patch, I can say Backbreaker has moved into the real of playable football title. However, it's still nowhere near a Madden/NCAA killer.

A majority of the issues were fixed or tweaked, although I would say several are still at least minor issues. More importantly, several of the wrong rule interpretations in the original game are now correct, at least largely so. If you are looking for some in-depth impressions from the patched game, check out this awesome thread.

The big thing this patch does is take Backbreaker from an atrocious yet innovative game to a playable and innovative game. I'm not even sure I'd assign it the title of good at this point still, but if you are burnt out with EA's football brand, give the newly patched Backbreaker a rent at the very least.

I think you'll find it refreshing.
Chris is the Executive Editor of Operation Sports and maintains this blog on the site. He is also a native Oklahoman and avid storm chaser. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisSnr.
Blog: MMChrisS
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
02:02 PM - August 10, 2010. Written by MMChrisS
The question I keep asking myself is whether Gameflow and the Game Planning features are a revolution in Madden NFL 11 or just another gimmick which is sure to go by the wayside in future years not unlike Weapons, the Vision Cone, and any number of other features.

It's not like we haven't been given a bevy of reasons to believe Gameflow isn't indeed another gimmick.

But yet, I can't help but also feel that maybe this feature is different. Because, in case you didn't know, picking plays by down and yardage is how the real coaches do it more often than not.

So we face a crossroads here, where people are so used to an aspect of the game which is incredibly unrealistic traditionally (play-calling) yet they resist a change to something a bit more realistic -- although slightly gimmicky as-is.

I'm fine with playcalling continuing it's march towards being more realistic. Picking plays by down and distance, instead of by formation, is how it's done in the big leagues -- and really any other league if a coach is successful sans the napkin waving Mike Leach. I just feel Madden (and NCAA for that matter) are on the cusp of really exploring some pretty deep and immersive aspects of what it's like to be a coach, although they certainly must retool their career modes in such a way that being the coach is a focal point of the modes for this to go further.

But yet, I can't help but feel that even though many want a more realistic on the field product, they are more forgiving with things off the field. I think there is a built in resistance towards changing playcalling by many in the community simply because it's a change from what we are used to. If you are one of those people I simply must say, "Fear not the change which is hopefully coming."

As far as the current iteration of Gameflow and Game Planning is concerned, it's rather gimmicky this year only because there's no foundation to it. Make the coaching aspects of the game more realistic and suddenly, gameflow/game planning becomes a whole new monster, one that really has a point and purpose. As always, I think the classic playcalling option should be in the game, but if you really started to explore the complex world of gameplanning within Madden in relation to playing towards your coaching and team strengths -- I think users would be less willing to pick plays the old way.

I think the majority of gamers want their experience more realistic. However, we just need to know we are moving and building towards a more realistic game instead of just being handed random forks in the road just to satisfy the need for a tagline touting a new innovative feature on the back of a retail box.

Like a mist: vision cones, weapons, lead blocking control. Here one moment, gone the next. If Gameflow plans to stick around, it's going to need more weight behind it than it currently does.
Chris is the Executive Editor of Operation Sports and maintains this blog on the site. He is also a native Oklahoman and avid storm chaser. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisSnr.
Blog: MMChrisS