With the Gridiron Notes yesterday detailing Face of the Franchise and “classic” Franchise, the rubber finally hit the road so to speak. What are your thoughts on the additions and the backlash?
Chase Becotte: While I’m not surprised to see something like #FixFranchiseMode pick up steam, the level of outrage still should be unpacked since it comes from multiple directions. First off, you have EA on record just last year saying franchise mode is going to be a continued focus now. Now, if the argument is Face of the Franchise counts under that umbrella, the lie is not as blatant. But the thing about these focused single-player journeys is they have not been good enough either.
Longshot was the best attempt at a Madden story mode, and it hits some highs but still was criticized for a lack of interesting gameplay. Longshot 2 was a worse story and still not enough improvement in gameplay. Then last year’s QB1 has a strong start but it quickly fizzled out. In other words, EA hasn’t nailed the new thing they’re trying to sell to people while at the same time ignoring normal franchise mode in the process. So they’re not delivering an engaging one-year story, and they’re certainly not providing an interesting year-over-year choose your own adventure. So they’re failing at being a linear game and an RPG at the same time.
Legacy is another piece to this. It would be easier for folks to get over this slight if Madden wasn’t at one point the premiere franchise mode experience. It’s been years since that was the case, but between NCAA Football and Madden, Tiburon had franchise mode all but down to a science at one point. Now? Woof. And the issue just stacks on itself because Madden has been behind when it comes to franchise mode now for years. When people talk about the “death” of franchise mode, it’s more stark with Madden because the mode already lags behind the competition. When 2K does not put as much into its franchise mode equivalents one year, it’s upsetting, but the foundation of that mode is in a better place so it’s easier to still have a good time with the help of community. With Madden, there’s certainly some great modding happening on PC to try and cover up the issues, but the community can’t help as much to deepen the experience.
Lastly, you have NFL exclusivity recently ending back up with EA after the tease from both the NFL and 2K that things might finally be opening back up to competition. You put all that together, and that’s how you get Madden becoming the poster child for franchise mode fans finally standing up with other folks from the community and saying enough is enough.
Phil Varckette: I will say that Face of the Franchise looks pretty fun. I will probably play through it as long as I can stand it. But “classic” franchise? Oh my. I really hope they have big plans for franchise mode on the next-gen systems. Maybe they just figured there wasn’t much more to do with current-gen and to use those resources on an overhauled franchise mode in next-gen? If that doesn’t happen, they will just create even more ill will going into the future of the franchise.
I know MUT is their money maker, but you have to have a deeper franchise mode. It’s football. As a GM/coach, you should absolutely be able to control way more than you can now. There is really no excuse at this point for incremental improvements. I still have a slight hope for an overhaul for next-gen, but I wouldn’t even bet a dollar on it.
Bob Kollars: As a big franchise guy in almost every sports title, I can say that I wasn’t expecting much in terms of innovation or additions to franchise mode this year. Yet, EA still found way to make sure we got even less. Franchise fans have fought the good fight, but it’s absolutely apparent that franchise is being left for dead. This may sound like hyperbole, but at what stage do we just accept defeat and walk away knowing that franchise fans are, at best, antiquated in their desires when it comes to modern sports gaming?
We can talk about suits and direction and future plans all we want, but the past five years (more actually) has given us very little hope for the future. The writing is no longer even on the wall because even that is too much effort for EA to throw our way. I specifically remember being told how franchise fans were told to acclimate and accept the idea of Ultimate Team modes because they provided resources to help other modes keep growing with new additions and innovations. Well, I think we all see what that lie has delivered us.
Joel Smith: I think at this point it’s safe to say that “classic” franchise mode is dead. We’ve been overlooked and have received what I feel are minor updates that haven’t enhanced what’s been a stagnant experience. As one of my favorite hip-hop groups of all time Wu-Tang Clan told us many years ago: “Cash Rules Everything Around Me/C.R.E.A.M. get the money/dolla dolla bills y’all!”
EA has been getting the dollars, billions of them, mainly from their Ultimate Team modes. While the developers, community managers and producers are the ones who deal with all the attacks from the community, they ultimately answer to folks higher up the food chain. In pointing this out, there has to be a point where the same community that plunges their hard earned dollars into increasing the profits for EA should be acknowledged and listened to. If franchise mode is still included in EA Sports titles, in this instance Madden, there simply is no excuse to expand on Face of the Franchise for Madden 21 (which, if you’ve all forgotten became the same stagnant franchise mode once you got to the NFL in Madden 20) if they’re not also putting resources into normal franchise mode.
I vent as a frustrated and disgruntled franchise/sim gamer. The only real way that we can be heard at this point is by spending our money on other football products that are trying to deliver what we’ve been vying for. We’ll never really know with 100 percent certainty why franchise mode is and has been ignored (most likely revenue or lack thereof), but if the community could possibly have a voice or voices that could actually be heard, maybe one iteration soon we’ll get a franchise mode with a hint of the depth and value that we see in, say, NBA 2K MyLeague/MyGM.
Chris Huber: Face of the Franchise looks decent. That is about as much time as I’ll give the mode. I’ll pretty much echo what everyone else said in stating I had almost no expectations for the reveal yesterday and EA still managed to underwhelm. I was expecting maybe something small, like coordinators, or perhaps different broadcast packages for games on different days of the week. At minimum, the removal of the lame character creation journey the game puts you through if you want to control every team. But we got a minimal list of things that could have been patched into the game last October.
In Madden 18 we had custom draft classes. In Madden 19 (the last version I have), I’m not sure the mode was really touched — if it was, that’s an even bigger indictment of it. Last year, they introduced the scenario engine. Maybe we’ll get a new feature every two years, at best, from now on. If that’s what us franchise people are up against moving forward, PlayStation 4 might be my last stop for the Madden series.
Josh Houtz: I was someone who actually liked Face of the Franchise in Madden 20 — or at least the general idea of it until it broke down a bit. My only gripe was that you were unable to change positions and the story ended once you were drafted to your NFL team. This year, the story seems much more detailed, and it should be fun following your character from high school to the NFL. I’m cautiously optimistic about Face of the Franchise 2.0.
Beyond that, franchise mode has been a staple of sports games dating back to the very beginning. Hell, it’s why most of us got into sports gaming in the first place. Having the opportunity to build your franchise in your vision and play through a realistic season mode was the hook back in the day. Unfortunately, over the years, EA has stopped putting time and resources into franchise mode. It’s hard to sit here and figure out the exact moment where EA went wrong with Madden’s franchise mode. But for a company that stated they would make changes last year at this time, I’m left feeling angry and betrayed. As others have stated, anything would’ve been better than what they gave us. They could have added coordinators, brought back mini games — there’s so many things they could’ve brought back to satiate consumers.
We have to continue holding those in charge accountable. I, like many, have bought Madden since the beginning. It’s time for them to do right by their loyal costumers. It’s time for EA to start listening to the community, and in doing so, creating a better product.