Box Score is a weekly column that offers a look at sports games and the athletic side of the industry from the perspective of veteran reviewer and sports fan Richard Grisham.
The world is shifting under our feet. Browsed the selection in a record store lately? Of course not; they’re all gone, done in by digitized music and an industry that was incapable of recognizing what was happening. Read an actual newspaper in the past few years? Not very often, because most of them are now extinct, killed by the internet and an old-guard industrial mindset that couldn’t figure out how to monetize content. There are dozens of other examples to draw from.
Everywhere we look, established means of delivering and consuming entertainment have dramatically changed. Video games are no different – and the shift is happening before our eyes and wallets. Digital downloads, high-quality free-to-play models, smartphone and tablet gaming, and social media networks have wreaked havoc inside established gaming company boardrooms. The rules are changing at warp speed, and new players are showing up every day.
So what does that mean to the vaunted Madden franchise now – and in the next few years?
“The key thing for Madden is that it wants to be on every platform and deliver unique experiences that are tailored for the audiences that are on those platforms,” Madden’s director of marketing Anthony Stevenson told me when I asked him that exact question. “You see us doing that on iPad and iOS and Android and the web. There are a lot of things that we’re working on to take advantage of the new platforms that are out there.”
While there is uncertainty in a lot of arenas, one thing is certain – a new generation of consoles is coming, and they’ll be in consumer hands in less than two years.
“Any time there’s any new technology, a creative person is excited,” Mike Young, the creative director of Madden NFL, told me a couple of weeks ago. “We’re definitely thinking that this year’s Madden game has a lot of ‘next-gen’ ideas in it. People are changing the way they play, so we feel that this year’s game has tons of innovations that to me feel like a different way of using the technology.”
“When I think about future console generations, it’s less about specific consoles and more about investment in gameplay,” said Cam Weber, the GM of American Football, in a conversation the same afternoon. “We’re investing in making our core, fundamental gameplay fun and authentic. At the same time, we want to invest in advanced technologies. Those advanced technologies are the underlying toolsets and workflows that are underneath the hood, and our heavy investment in that is really to get us, no matter what platform or hardware or console we’re on, set up to deliver the experience we want in the end.”
Anthony Stevenson looks at it in a similar fashion – with a twist.
“When you look at the next generation of consoles, we’re going to see what type of technology that brings,” he said. “Certainly, whatever the consumer starts to gravitate to, however they start gravitating to the way they want to start receiving our games and content, Madden will certainly be there to endorse that and be a part of that.”