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We’re still mad about Madden

August 11, 2009
By MIKE HUGHES, The Scene

Madden.

It's just a two-syllable word, but that one word instantly conjures unbridled excitement in anyone who has ever picked up a video game controller.

EA Sports is set to release the its latest installment of arguably the greatest sports video game franchise of all time Monday when Madden 2010 hits stores nationwide.

What began humbly in 1988 on the Apple II has morphed into the juggernaut of the sports gaming world.

The game began when representatives of a fledgling company called Electronic Arts approached NFL Hall of Fame coach John Madden, then a sports announcer for CBS, about lending his name to a football game.

Madden was initially approached in 1986, but refused to add his name to a game that didn't feature 11 on 11 football. Delays in being able to physically program to Madden's specifications pushed the release date back two years. Little did the parties involved know the frenzy that would follow during the next two decades.

As a coach, Madden guided the Oakland Raiders to the Super Bowl XI in 1977.

He also teamed with commentator Pat Summerall as a color analyst on both CBS and Fox for NFL games.

But for an entire generation of Americans, the name Madden is synonymous with a video game first and his other accomplishments second.

But it's just a game right?

Last year, the 20th anniversary edition of Madden was the highest selling video game for the third-quarter, which runs from July through September. Also keep in mind that Madden traditionally isn't released until August.

In less than a month, the combined platform sales of Madden 2009 totaled 2.994 million copies. That number doesn't even include holiday sales in November and December.

That's quite a chuck of change considering the sports genre is considered a niche market in the gaming world.

Fans just can't wait to get their hands on the hottest sports game of the season.

Most avid players of the game shell out a portion of the final cost ahead of time at video game and electronics retailers to reserve a copy.

Those same players who preordered the game can usually be seen on release-date, lined up around the corner in the mall eagerly awaiting their copies. In recent years, stores have opened early, offering a midnight release to give fans a few extra hours of game time on release day.

I remember a time when I was in college, myself, a few friends and probably 30 other people were waiting outside what was then Babbages at the Ohio Valley Mall, waiting for our copies.

The assistant manager informed us by phone the day before that there would be a delay in shipping, but that a store employee was on his way to Kentucky to pick up the shipment to insure that we'd have it on time.

He was supposed to be there at noon, but was running late. A few of the more impatient customers in our group paced back and forth throughout the mall, trying to find a guy in a red shirt with a big beige box.

The game has taken on a life of its own.

High school kids play it in their bedroom and living rooms. College students burn the midnight oil, playing pick-up games with friends and shelling out money for in-dorm tournaments.

The continued explosion of broadband internet links million of players across the world who meet anonymously online to battle for bragging rights.

ESPN even broadcasted a reality show featuring a traveling tournament, pitting the best players from across the country against one another.

And don't think that Madden is only for the men.

There are a number of websites dedicated solely to girl gamers and while not nearly as numerous as their male counterparts, there are plenty of woman who like to throw down on the digital turf.

The ironic thing is, John Madden no longer serves as one of the two main in-game commentators in his own game. He's still a part of it, and EA Sports is smart enough to know not to remove his name from the game.

When customers hear "Madden" they know what to expect. And this year, those that preordered the game got an extra treat, a pre-release demo where fans could replay the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl game.

As if fans needed any further enticement to shell out their hard-earned money.

 
 

 

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