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Publisher Electronic Arts’ football game started off with a Tony Romo-like performance last month.

Madden NFL 15 missed its retail sales expectations by 20 percent, according to investment firm Cowen & Company analyst Doug Creutz. That weak debut (Madden launched Aug. 26) dragged down the entire industry. Yesterday, GamesBeat reported that new physical software sales were down 21 percent in August compared to the same period in 2013, and Creutz blames Madden for those dismal sales.

But Madden’s failure to meet its expectations falls in line with recent trends. The game did fine on new-gen systems, but people did not line up to buy the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions.

“The bulk of the shortfall was driven by weakness on last-gen consoles,” Creutz wrote in a note to investors. “[That] came in well below our expectations. New-gen sales were closer to [what we anticipated].”


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The last-gen slump has plagued numerous releases since the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 debuted last November. Gamers are desperate for content on the new systems, but 360 and PS3 software sales are drying up faster than expected.

If any game could dodge that trend, however, it’s Madden, due to its appeal to a broad audience. But that just didn’t happen.

“Even [if you assume that] 20 percent of new-gen sales came through digital download, the August data suggests the title is on track to be down from 10 percent from last year,” wrote Creutz. “We had been expecting it to be up 10 percent, helped by the lack of an NCAA Football title this year and a larger new-gen installed base.”

It’s very unlikely that Madden reached 20 percent in digital sales on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. EA has previously noted that its new releases do between 10 and 15 percent digital sales on new consoles. Now, the Xbox One has the premium EA Access program. It costs $5 a month or $30 a year and gets subscribers a 10-percent discount on digital games from the company. Creutz is entertaining the possibility that the service pushed Madden to 20 percent digital.

As for NCAA Football, EA Sports announced earlier this year that it was canceling its college pigskin franchise due to legal issues over using amateur players without reimbursing them. That left a void in the football market, but it looks like it did not result in consumers putting their money toward the NFL game instead.

“There were only five days of sales for Madden during the month, so it is possible for the title to catch up in September,” wrote Creutz. “But our initial read is that this is a poor start for the franchise.”


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