For years, fans have been waiting for an NFL Street-type game mode to find its way back to Madden. So when a recent leak showed off a unique game mode labeled The Yard in Madden 21, fans took notice — for better or worse.
On the surface, it may seem like EA is responding to news that 2K would be releasing a non-sim NFL video game. But the more logical conclusion is that once Volta was introduced in FIFA 20, it was only a matter of time before something like it found its way into EA’s NFL franchise. After all, FIFA and Madden have also mimicked each other in terms of transitioning to Frostbite and story-driven career modes one after each other.
That being said, let’s take a look at Madden’s newest game mode and theorize about The Yard.
What Is The Yard In Madden 21?
Note: EA has confirmed nothing.
Based on several reports, The Yard is a 6 vs. 6 game mode where users create their player before heading online to compete with 11 other players. Backyard Football on steroids might be the best way to describe it. And although we can only speculate that there will likely be NFL Street qualities, no one truly knows. What we do know is that this new game mode could change the way many play the game of Madden.
#FixMaddenFranchise Could Make This A Tougher Sell Than It Would Be During A More ‘Normal’ Year
Most people have wanted a return of NFL Blitz or NFL Street for many years. However, the first issue might be Madden’s own PR issue. #FixMaddenFranchise is not going away anytime soon, and so you’re going to have a large swathe of the very online community asking why The Yard got love over something like franchise mode.
To put it another way, including something like this in Madden right now — instead of as its own standalone product — might make it harder to be accepted and be seen as a win. It’s unfortunate that’s the case, but it seems relatively inevitable that it will be a talking point (at least in the short term). However, if something is fun, then usually quality will win out over negative feelings in the end.
What’s A Win Look Like Here For The Yard?
So yes, there is a world where this could end up as a win in the community. Superstar KO has plenty of detractors, but it’s very easy to argue it was a popular and successful new addition. There is a clear market for this sort of thing.
With The Yard, having the opportunity to create your player and join up with friends to compete against six other users is exciting. A lot of people like team-play modes in various sports, and a more free-form 6-on-6 game mode with other users could be more enjoyable than the current OTP setup.
It also gives content creators a new way to approach the game. For years, you either played franchise mode or Madden Ultimate Team. Now there’s a new kid on the block along with Superstar KO, and if done right, it could pick up some steam in the community at large.
This might not be something the OS community has asked for, but it seems like something new and exciting to help push Madden into the next-generation of sports gaming. As an online gamer, this is something I’m very much looking forward to trying.
So we've got a leak of a new mode in Madden NFL 21 that would seem added at least in part to undercut the future (likely) arcade-style NFL game from 2K Sports. pic.twitter.com/zAbVhCM3Di
— Bryan Wiedey (@pastapadre) July 12, 2020
What We Still Need To Know About The Yard In Madden 21
The first thing that needs to be determined is how outlandish this new mode will be. I don’t expect it to be quite as over the top as NFL Street and certainly not Blitz, but it needs to have certain qualities. Will there be style points and special plays to execute once your meter is full? Will you be able to put bone-jarring, arcade-like hits on the opposition?
What about using parkour to run on a wall and break free of a defender? Can we assume the game will play similar to a Brett Favre jeans commercial with a bunch of middle-aged men playing football in the backyard? There’s a lot more questions than answers at the moment.
I’m also fearful of how this mode will play from a defensive standpoint. We already know defensive backs sometimes move like they have cinder blocks on their feet. But now we’re asking a user to cover another user in one-on-one coverage? Wide receivers move gracefully and have the ability to stop and cut on a dime.
How will rushing the quarterback be? Will there be a clock that forces users to wait before getting to the QB? Or can two players blitz freely as soon as the ball is snapped?
I’m also very interested to see how this affects competitive play. Will there be 6-on-6 tournaments? Will the Madden Championship Series adapt?
And let’s not forget it brings competition to NFL video games. One of the biggest things that has ruined NFL games in recent years is the lack of competition. Unfortunately, it won’t be an NFL simulation game, but will The Yard in Madden 21 eventually serve as competition for whatever 2K puts out?
As we usually see with new game modes in sports games, The Yard likely won’t be a finished product for a year or two. This seems like it will be especially true this year with the transition to the next generation of gaming. And until we see what 2K has in the works, it will be hard to grasp what the light at the end of the tunnel might look like for this new era of non-sim football gaming.
Nevertheless, having EA and 2K creating competition for one another would be great for everyone involved if 2K is allowed to make an arcade-style football game. Of course, it would be even better if both companies could compete in the simulation space as well, but we’ve been down that what-if road enough as of late and it hurts too much to talk about it again.
We’ll presumably get more information on The Yard in the coming weeks, and we’ll of course discuss it when we do.