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The rise of Esports Madden and EA in the gaming industry

Here’s what you need to know.

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Image: Chaos Hour

The name Madden has become synonymous with pro football video game simulation. Although the name belongs to the beloved Hall of Fame coach, most kids today wouldn’t be able to pick John Madden out of a lineup even if a Fortnite Crew subscription was at stake. So how did Madden, and EA, in particular, get a monopoly on NFL simulations? Certain bookmakers have begun to offer options to win esports events on Madden simulations, creating a larger buzz around this product. How has it risen to such prominence, and what role has esports betting had in its rise? Let’s take a look at these questions and more down below. 

Madden NFL Roots

The first version of an NFL simulator featuring the name Madden came out in 1988. Since then, the game has obviously evolved; changing the name to Madden NFL in 1993. And, while early on EA did add new features, such as franchise mode or create-a-team, the lack of any substantial changes in recent years has led to more and more backlash. We’ll look at that further below.

Since 2013, the franchise has raked in over $4 billion in sales and has sold more than 130 million copies. Clearly, it’s been a very popular product. So what features have led to Madden having such enduring success? And is that success at stake? 

EA’s Grip on NFL Sims 

Without a doubt, the biggest factor attributing to EA and Madden’s success has been the lack of competition. This move can be traced back to 1993 when EA acquired the rights to use NFL teams and players, but was ultimately solidified in 2004. There EA signed an exclusive licensing rights agreement that would last until 2009. However, both parties continue to renew these deals, maintaining EA’s firm grasp over this product.

When the move was first announced, Mike Mika (developer working on NFL 2K at the time) described the agreement as “a nuclear bomb going off in the game industry.” 

Insiders knew the implications of the deal but consumers have been late to the party as criticism of EA’s video game has only been increasing in recent years. Nevertheless, the NFL keeps inking new deals with its longtime video game partner. In fact, earlier this year it was announced that both parties had finalized a contract that would maintain EA’s monopoly over NFL sims until 2025. However, judging from the reception their most recent games have gotten, there might not be anyone willing to buy Madden 2025. 

Rising Hate for EA 

If you’re not big into video games, you might not be aware of a current trend running amok in the industry. Long story short, technology has become increasingly more complex but companies have become unwilling to pour the proper amount of resources to develop quality video games. Instead, video game companies prefer to cut as many corners as possible in hopes of decreasing costs and increasing profits. Madden NFL is a prime example of this. 

A quick google search will list the litany of issues hardcore fans have found in the game. This Reddit post  outlines 24 different features that the video game had in one of it’s iterations but EA has decided not to reimplement. So instead of adding more features, EA decides to take resources out? 

But removing resources isn’t the only crime EA has committed. Year after year, EA elects to recycle resources from previous video games instead of developing new ones. This is a rising trend in the video gaming industry but is one that should be unequivocally rejected by consumers.  

What Lies Ahead for Madden

Clearly, Madden is in a tough spot. Each year more and more fans call for the NFL to rescind the contract it continues to renew. However, it’s clear that they keep making enough money to keep justifying their current approach. 

One thing that may save Madden, and EA in particular, is esports betting. Madden sims are interesting since they help bettors simulate upcoming NFL games and can be quite entertaining. So, for the time being, EA knows that at least sportsbooks will continue to buy their product. But that is business. As for the rest of their fan base? That is still uncertain.

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