Let’s start this the same way we did last year and see if readers will see the difference. It’s another year, another Madden football game. It’s a new day where people may call out sick or take the day off so they can get all that they can out of their new game.
The first paragraph, like sports games in general is different yet the same. Take a game that’s a yearly iteration, update the roster, move a few buttons around polish the graphics a bit and voila! It’s a new game of the same game we have been playing for years. Yet, we consumers feed right into it by spending money on them yearly hoping that this year’s iteration will be vastly superior to last year’s. This isn’t to say that you should or shouldn’t get Madden 16 as I am sure that many fans already have their minds made up for today’s purchase. However it stands to reason, there are still issues within sports games that should make us ask, why do we continue to buy them on a yearly basis?
Last time out I focused on three areas: Rolling out games every 3 to 5 years, carrying saves over, and mods. Whether you agree or disagree, let’s look at some other issues, that could factor in making better sports games.
If it aint broke don’t fix it
This is aimed solely at the Madden games. The biggest innovation that Madden can come up with this year is changing how passing and defending works with your controller. Instead of pressing one button to do an action now you have to do multiple presses to do the same thing. Your miles may vary on how it changes the way you play the game but really, is this needed? Madden players, think back on all the years you have played and each time EA Sports added a new feature how long did it last? Remember the QB Cone or Fight for the Fumble? Do you remember the Lead Block control or…the REWIND play feature? There are a lot of things in sports games where it doesn’t require a yearly fiddle with controllers or useless features for it to work. Some of us are yearly slaves to sports games and all we want to do is to be able to pick up the controller and play. It shouldn’t be an issue of players having to relearn the controls or figure out a new control scheme to play. That’s one thing I have always enjoyed about the FIFA and PES series as well as NBA 2K. I can pick up almost any year of those games and play without having to re-familiarize where everything is. It would be nice if Madden could allow for the same thing without trying to wedge in features that won’t find its way into next year’s iteration. Does anyone want to take bets now how long the new catching feature will last? Stop fiddling with the controls and focus more on some of the animations. With the tech that we have now, many of the motions can be captured.
Bring back the arcade!
Back in the 90s a fun part to sports games was when companies came out with games like NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, Arch Rivals and even Mutant League Football. Even with limited technology back then, some of those games actually made it fun to play our favorite sports without having to ‘grind’ through seasons of a simulated game. Just think with today’s technology how some games like NBA and FIFA Street, Tecmo Bowl, or even MLB the Bigs would fare if done properly. I get the idea that companies like EA and 2K Sports wants to put out the most authentic sim available and that’s great. In my opinion, especially since yearly iterations won’t allow me to carry my saves over, I don’t always have the time like I want, to run a franchise and occasionally some arcade type gaming is in order. Sure, some of the current sports games allow for Ultimate teams, and even Madden 16’s new Draft champions mode sounds enticing, it still doesn’t fill in that void of over-the-top gaming that we had from some of the games mentioned above and sometimes it’s the variety within a sport that brings consumers out. Again, with the power that the Ps4 and Xbox One have, a lot of these over the top style games could really blossom and bring back the arcade type sports game with lots of new bells and whistles.
Stop with paid DLC
This actually could be argued in many games but I have reached a point with sports games where I as a player shouldn’t have to pay get stuff that at one time, we used to get in game. Buy or have to unlock a jersey set or sneakers? No. Buy a stadium pack? uh-uh. Buy or unlock a hairstyle ESPECIALLY DREADLOCKS? NO. Buy a DLC pack to GET players that was INCLUDED in my game 3 years ago? HELL NO. I really want to see companies stop nickel and diming us on stuff that used to be all inclusive in games. It’s not fair that gamers should either have to purchase or grind through games just to unlock aesthetic gear that really doesn’t change the game all that much. I know some of you are grousing that no one is forcing gamers to make these extra purchases but just the idea that it’s even feasible is something that can keep people from purchasing a game in the first place.
Allowing for better competition among game companies
This is the biggest sticking point for sports games being good or bad. How much competition is there in that particular sport? It goes without saying that Madden’s gaming quality went down after they completely bought the NFL license in 2005. In 10 years, the quality of the yearly releases has been up and down depending on what you liked and didn’t like about each. One thing that many of us can agree on is that the moment EA Sports took our choices away; it made many fans to make a choice to stay on the Madden train or get off completely. This has been a big problem not only with the NFL and Madden, but sports games in general.
Think of it this way, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you had NFL QB Club, Joe Montana Football, NFL Fever, NFL Gameday and so many more which meant every time EA Sports put a Madden game out they were pushed to be the best. In my opinion, Gameday and later on, NFL 2K were the closest competitors in winning NFL gamers. You had just as many titles among the MLB, NBA and FIFA fans as well but look at the landscape today. There are no NCAA titles out at all which is sad because there were some iterations of NCAA Football that were better than Madden. That’s a question that requires its own article. How did we end up with NO NCAA basketball or football games at all?
The MLB franchise is on lock by Sony after the 2K series ended in 2013. Conversely, the NBA 2K series has been seen as superior to the reviving NBA Live series which hasn’t put out a good game in nearly 10 years if not longer. The FIFA series has been dominated by EA Sports’ offering. The biggest problem with this is, even though Pro Evolution Soccer is FIFA’s only other competitor, due to EA Sports having nearly all of the licenses, even with superior gameplay, it’s hard for PES to outdo FIFA. Sorry, I don’t care who you are, you aren’t going to pay 60 bucks for a game to play as a generic team.
The competition for a lot of these sports games now has become very uneven in which gamers don’t really have the choice as we did years ago to get good games due to great competition. The gaming companies by monopolizing sports licenses has stifled a lot of the innovation in some of the sports games that they put out today. Like drones, we will get up on days like this, head over to Gamestop, trade in our old Maddens and get back a ¼ (or less) of what we originally paid for it, to get the new shiny. We will get them home, play it so that we can get a feel of the one or 2 new things about the game and repeat this next year.
Years ago, most of us didn’t mind year sports iterations because the idea of sports games was relatively new and each year we saw great leaps. We went from player numbers to player names, vocal commentary, multiple jerseys, even from sprites to polygons, the early days of sports gaming really gave us something new yearly. We have reached a point now where minor tweaks in the game AI has become something to get happy about and it can’t justify a new purchase. Gamers need more than just a new button or one new mode to be enticed to pick a game up yearly. It would really be nice if instead of just plain game mechanics, the competition could come back to sports games. It would be great to see more arcade-like sports games return for those that don’t necessarily want to run through a simulated season. It would be even better if other companies were allowed licenses in order to really compete for fan dollars. Just imagine, no matter how often it has been said, what life would be like if 2K Sports was still making football games. How much pressure would be on EA to make a competitive Madden game? That’s a gaming world I would love to see return.