I’m not much of a football game fan, but I’ve been intrigued by the new Owner Mode that Electronic Arts is adding to its Madden NFL 25 video game this year. Madden is still the hardcore simulation of football that requires twitch reflexes. But Owner Mode is for older players and those who fancy the idea of one day owning a sports team.
Owner Mode introduces the real owners of NFL franchises and their attempts to run the most profitable team in the league. If you can survive the season and draw fans, your coffer will grow. I got a look at this new mode recently, and it sparked my fancy. EA will demo the game next week at the E3 game trade show in Los Angeles.
It has become fashionable to put multiple games into a single release these days, and EA Sports titles are leading the charge on that as the company comes up with new ways to keep players engaged for a whole season. That can be valuable because engaged players are the ones that stick around long enough to make additional purchases of downloadable content. These so-called meta games are also a way to stop players from going to a competitor’s titles (though Madden doesn’t really have a competitor these days, since EA has the exclusive NFL license). With Madden, you can also “be a player” for a whole season or “be a coach.” These are small but important reasons why gamers will keep buying new versions of a game they’ve played before.
With Owner Mode, you can imagine you’re a rich person with a big ego. I ran across one of these characters early in my career when Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys from H.R. “Bum” Bright” for $140 million. As a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald, I attended the press conference where Jones announced the deal, and I shot questions about the financial end of the deal. I can imagine what I looked like to Jones, as I was wearing my “Maryland is for Crabs” T-shirt and was furiously taking notes.
At the time, everybody thought that Jones had paid too much and would run out of money. But he’s turned out to be one of the NFL’s longest-tenured owners. Now you can be that kind of owner, too, and choose among 30 current owners.
You can take over day-to-day team operations, doing everything related to the corner office job. You can set prices on tickets, T-shirts, and hot dogs and other concessions. You can figure out the marketing for your team and manage the construction of a new stadium. Your new stadium can be opulent and have sweet amenities. But you shouldn’t make those concession too big or you’ll run low on seating capacity. You can even be like former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis and relocate your team to the city that is the highest bidder (and even move it back!).
You can pick a strong team or one that needs to rise from the bottom. You may have some discipline problems if you’re in charge of the unruly Raiders, or you may have a big-spending team like the Washington Redskins.
You can manage the cash flow, review your coaching staff, and listen to advisers. Your most important pick for a hire is the head coach, who has to come up with the magical gameplan. As you manage the team, you have to figure out what makes it valuable, such as popularity or notoriety. And what will you do if your players get hurt? You’ll have to get them to rehab. You could even see what happens if you expand the league into another country, like Mexico City.
“You can hire and fire staff, and see what the reaction is,” said Mike Young, the creative director on the development team.
Madden NFL 25 is going to debut on Aug. 27 for $60 on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game consoles.