A recent mention of the flaws inherent to the only available NFL video game prompted a positive response from many of you who lament the fact that the exclusive license EA obtained from the NFL and the NFLPA in 2004 removed any incentive for the Madden series to become the best game it can be.
Or, more specifically, to become as good as the game that prompted EA to obtain the exclusive license in the first place.
Rewind to 2004. ESPN 2K5 arrived with a superior product for only $19.95. EA panicked, slashing the price point of the Madden game from $49.95 to $29.95. In lieu of innovation, EA went straight for the nuclear option, paying for an exclusive license that shut out the 2K series and any other company that would push EA to do something other than upgrade the game slowly and methodically so that people will plunk down another $49.95 every year into perpetuity.
The good news is that, per the league office, the exclusive EA license lasts only a “couple more years.” The bad news is that, thanks to all the money earned over the last decade by selling basically the same game with different players in the software and a different picture on the cover (which has been hyped into something far more significant than it is), EA will surely be able to extend the exclusive license, if it wants.
The NFL has the power to keep that from happening.
The question for the NFL is whether it’s content to give its names and logos and other trademarks (federally protected or otherwise) to a product that isn’t as good as it could be or should be. Perhaps the only factor that matters is the money, given that no one is complaining all that loudly about the fact that the fans ultimately are being scammed.
As we’ve recently learned, plenty are complaining. But the complaints have gained little traction in the mainstream media. Especially since ESPN — which licensed its own name to the great 2K5 game — has plopped into bed with the Madden series, presiding over the contrived bracket for determining the player whose image will be linked to this year’s version of the game.
Which ultimately may be the only noticeable difference between one year of the Madden game and the next.