I play a lot of video games. Like, a lot. The majority of my free time is spent playing video games. Surprising, I know. And, considering my devotion in all things sports-related, it should go without saying that I play a ton of sports games. They’re what I spend most of my gaming energy on. Whenever a new non-sport game I want comes out, I just marathon it until I’m come as close to 100% completion as I deem realistically possible, then go right back to whatever sport is in season at the time. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember. So when I start to criticize the Madden franchise, one of the longtime pillars of my life and an important part of my personal development from child to older, larger child, I come to you from a place not just of experience and expertise, but also a place of deep passion and commitment.
Madden needs to come out way earlier. That’s just a fact. August 22nd is too late in the year for the only football game on the market to be released. It’s only been out for three weeks now, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that NBA 2K18 is coming out next week. NBA 2K is an objectively better game franchise than Madden. How am I supposed to pour hours upon hours of my life into Madden when I could be playing MyCareer? It’s an impossible thing to ask of someone, and, frankly, I’m sick of being put in that position.
It didn’t used to be this way. Long ago in the Age of Heroes, NCAA Football would come out at the beginning of July, then Madden in August. It was the perfect setup: give me a taste of football at the start of training camp then give me another bite right before the season. It felt like a natural progression, and it kept me more invested in the college game, which only fueled my love for the NFL. Now, you have to go cold turkey all throughout training camp and the start of the college season, unless you feel like playing last year’s game, which, so close to the release of a shiny new version, only makes the cravings worse (once a game becomes 5+ years old, though, then it gains new life as an entertaining look into the past). I don’t want to be blasted in the face with a full load of football in late August, I want to ease my way in at my own pace.
Another problem is, of course, the demise of the NCAA franchise. I’m not the first and won’t be the last one to say that the NCAA games were more fun than Madden. The play was faster paced, there were distinct differences in play styles, not just slight variations of the same playbook like in Madden, and the career and dynasty modes were both better than any game mode Madden has ever had. I was legitimately addicted to recruiting computer generated high-school football players. Although I would never trust the computer to execute my gameplan the right way, I would always at least think about simming every game just so I could do more recruiting. Starting off as a random MAC or WAC (RIP) school and building them up to an improbable national powerhouse was awesome, and getting that first five star recruit was a unique joy that I’ve yet to replicate (if you started a dynasty as a blue blood school you’re a coward). That pursuit of developing fictional young players is probably what drove me to Fifa in the years since the last NCAA. Creating the most stacked youth academy in the world in my manager careers is pretty much my new favorite pastime. Sure, Madden still has the draft, and I do love scouting and angling to get better picks and young stars, but it’s not the same. At some point, I’ll lose interest in my franchise, mostly because they refuse to add any new features to it. Once that happens, I’m pretty much out. I mean, NBA has MyCareer, MyGM, even MyTeam (which, to me, is much better than Madden Ultimate Team since it’s possible to build a decent team way easier), then I can go online when I’m feeling myself. Fifa’s career mode is way better and more in-depth, has a better Ultimate Team, and is far more enjoyable to play online. Have you ever played Madden online? It stinks! The games are too long, there’s too many glitches, and I’m just not as good as I used to be. Not fun!
Lastly, and this really isn’t Madden’s fault, but the real-life product on the field is just so bad now. Listen, I’m a football junkie. I’ll watch any game at any time if you put it in front of me. But I’m convinced that the Patriots are the only NFL team capable of playing entertaining games at this point. They got completely dominated on Thursday night, but if they gave that same performance against the other 30 teams in the league on Sunday, they’d still win at least 24 games. Every team stinks, there’s only ten quarterbacks worth anything, and 95% of coaches and front offices don’t have the first clue what they’re doing. It’s comical how bad the NFL is right now. Compare that to the NBA, which tips off next month, and it’s night and day. The NBA has never been better or more interesting. Almost every team is run by smart people who understand the direction the league is going. Sure, there’s super teams, but there’s also more great players currently in the league than there has been in a long time. Almost everyone plays a visually appealing style. Bengals-Texans on Thursday night isn’t going to leave me dying to run to my PS4 and recreate the scintillating action. Bucks-Suns on a random Wednesday might. In addition to having the better video game, the NBA just has a better product than the NFL has. When 2K comes out, all I’m going to want to do is play MyCareer, start up a franchise mode to earn VC and explore different play styles, play MyTeam for a week before losing interest, and play the odd online game. Then Fifa comes out the week after. Before you know it, I’ve gone three weeks without playing Madden. What about the NFL as it currently is would make me want to run back to it, other than a base need to play fictional football games? EA needs to take a look in the mirror and realize that it’s time for a change. NCAA may be dead and gone, and I know they can’t really do anything about it until the NCAA itself changes (fat chance), but at least borrow it’s release date. If you offered Madden to me at the beginning of July, I would pay whatever amount you asked for. The start of training camp is when my football fever is at its highest point, not late August when I’ve actually seen how bad most teams are in the preseason. You might have to work a little harder, but putting Madden out in July would make everything better. My football fix is satisfied in a slower, more fulfilling way. I get more out of a game I paid good money for. It feels like a natural progression from one game to the next, rather that a huge cluster of release after release. And maybe, just maybe, you can help the NFL gain some momentum back from the NBA. I just fixed the NFL and EA Sports. I don’t always give out advice for free, so next time your company needs help, I’ll expect some sort of payment.