How close can you get?

Another year in video games means another “Madden NFL” game, EA’s best selling sports franchise, has shipped out to retail.

I should take this moment to point out that I’m not an avid NFL or Madden fan, but I recognize the brand and its great value to obsessive football gamers year over year (and I’ve owned a few iterations that I’ve paid for with my earth money).

For some, the prospect of a new Madden is more than just a yearly console release. It’s a tradition. It’s a way of life. And the anticipation for the next installment becomes less and less about new feature sets and roster updates, and more about a fresh version of the game to adapt to. Change here can be either bad or good for these folks, and they’ll try their best to adjust to vision cones, the realism of Pro Tak, or any other gimmicks additions introduced into the franchise.

Browsing through my RSS reader I saw an interesting article by Owen Good on Kotaku specifically dealing with their reader approval ratings and the results got me thinking. First, that hardcore sports gamers don’t read Kotaku. Period. Responses for question five made this very clear to me:

“5. Do you want to play Madden NFL 10? (any platform)

Yes: 12 percent (1,525 responses)
No: 81 percent (10,017)

Not sure: 7 percent (824)
12,366 total responses.

These next seven questions cover games released this year that, while not game-of-the-year caliber, arrived with tons of hype and/or brand recognition. They touch a diversity of genres too. Despite the fact Madden NFL 10 is probably the best version to date, and has been reviewed very positively, the game tanks here. This is likely a matter of genre preference, and the fact sports gamers are not well represented in the readership.”

Touchdown

Out of almost 12,400 readers (a small number considering how many answered the “How many systems do you play/own question – a whopping 55,185), a little over 10,000 readers agree that they don’t want to play this year’s Madden.

Yet it would be a shock (and trust me kids, it would) if “Madden 2010” wasn’t in the top three slots of the monthly game sales chart for August, provided by the NPD Group.

Of course, Owen does the right thing here, and points out that this could be more a readership issue. Even if it can be argued that die-hard Kotaku readers aren’t actively interested in football games, some of this lack of interest might be a reflection of the changing game industry.

Think about it, direct-to-download games and expansions purchased over Xbox Live, PSN or Steam seem to be better much received than they were three years ago. Couple that with the fact that no matter how brilliant the revision, the new Madden always ends up a roster update to the previous years’ version. It must be feasible to consider that slowly some die-hard fans are starting to reconsider their yearly purchase (and a recession like the current one we’re in can’t help that).

Are we that far from future iterations of Madden being offered as an expansion or update over direct to download channels (yes, an argument that seems almost beat to death at this point)? It’s a question that begs to be answered, and it can really cultivate better work from both EA and Tiburon, as an attempt to focus less on iteration and possibly more on innovation.

But then again, who is playing Madden right now? The Wii version never seems to catch on). But the yearly dominance of the franchise in the month of August is pretty guaranteed. But it’s success a curious thing even as a recognized brand, especially in this generation of the industry; where the party lines between ‘casual’ and ‘hardcore’ are drawn fiercely by forum posters and angry fanboys. Both terms have become categorical representations that are almost political at this point, and the amount of arguing between who falls in this ‘division’ or that seems ridiculous.

I don’t have any answers to the questions posed here, this is all just my brain rambling on as it tends to do. I guess I’m just surpised at the low poll turnout, considering the range of stories that grace Kotaku. Then again, should I be surprised? Considering 55,185 people decided to stand up and be counted for thier console of choice, while the rest of the questions peaked at a little over 12,000 responses says enough, I suppose. That in the end, this is just a typical ‘my console is (blank) than yours’ poll.

In that case, let the dick waving begin: The PC won with 9,250 votes!