As you have read in some of my reviews and previews, I am a big fan of sports based video games. However, I am not a fan of purchasing the same game every year. Luckily on the PC, where I used to do the bulk of my gaming, there were dedicated fans who would create mods to the game that would update the rosters and stats for each team on a year to year basis. This saved me precious money during my adolescent years.
Is it really necessary to do this EVERY YEAR?Fast forward seven years and here I set looking at the receipt for Madden 09, shaking my head in disgust. I am not bitter about purchasing the game, in fact I haven't been this pleased with a new Madden game in years. The problem is that over the last three years I have spent $180.00 on the same essential game with a different year stamped on it. While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, consider that there have been very few rule changes to the sport itself, and none that would warrant a complete reissuing of a game.
So what do the suckers like me get out of our yearly Madden update? In all honesty, very little. I try to justify it to my wife by pointing out a slightly glossier graphics, smoother animations and roster updates, but she just ends up nodding her head saying, "Alright honey, whatever you say..."
New features are also added frequently, but they tend to add more unnecessary complexity to a game with an already extreme barrier to entry. I swear that I spend more time hitting buttons before the ball is ever snapped, then I do during the running of the play. But that is a topic for another day.
An interesting solution to this problem was suggested by Bryan Intihar, formerly of Electronic Gaming Monthly, now with Insomniac Studios. His suggestion was to do a major release of Madden every three to four years. This would allow for extended development times on these games, so that truly game changing innovations could be made. Problems could be addressed like a traditional console game, instead of starting on the next version, before the current version has even shipped.
The next logical question is, "What would EA do to make up for the lost revenue?" Actually the solution is simpler than you may think. Yearly versions of sports franchises could be replaced by a $20-$30 full roster update. They could also throw in a new feature here or there, just to sweeten the pot. In the end, fans would jump at the chance to get the game for half of the price and the publishers would save millions in costs to develop, market and manufacture game discs.
I know that I would definitely be open to a Downloadable Content solution in the future. The trick is whether Electronic Arts is willing to risk the Madden cash cow in the interest of the consumers.