2020 has been tough for everyone. Games developers included.
The Madden 21 launch created one of the biggest game-related twitter buzzes we have ever seen. But not for the right reasons.
#FixMaddenFranchise went viral and showed EA just how discontented a major part of their fanbase is.
So what now?
EA takes responsibility for Madden Franchise
Say what you want about Madden 21 (and many people did on Metacritic), you have to give credit to EA Sports for holding their hands up.
We have since seen some negative reaction to other sports games such as NBA 2k21.
And given this franchise is normally top of the rating charts, this could be an indication of just how hard making the games during the height of the coronavirus pandemic must have been.
This aside, Madden 21 was released, and attacked by fans. #FixMaddenFranchise trended #1 in the US.
EA couldn't ignore the reaction, and they didn't.
In a series of videos and public statements, they committed to focusing on developments for the Franchise mode. They have outlined a two-stage approach between Madden 21 and Madden 22.
For Madden 21, the aim is to produce “two or three” updates to improve the experience. this is focused on different UI elements, customization, and tuning. They have also mentioned better commissioner tools that aim to give you more control over your franchise.
The Madden 22 changes are where the step change needs to happen. They have suggested things like scouting improvements, better team chemistry, and more.
What is the timing of Madden Franchise updates?
This is where fans will be won and lost for EA. They have outlined a plan but now they have to deliver on it.
But there's not enough clarity on when.
It hasn't helped that Madden 21 is having a nightmare with various bugs. This takes precious development time away from Franchise updates but also makes fans impatient.
With each passing update without a major Franchise mode edit, fans question when they will get to see what they have been promised.
Core game stability is obviously the priority for EA, but they are running out of time.
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Most Madden franchise players have already started their main games. When the game comes out it is very hard for fans to wait for the early updates before starting their Franchises.
Very rarely do the updates apply to existing saves, so how many Madden 21 players are going to start again?
Is this going to be enough for fans?
EA have to be really careful and make sure they don't 'over-promise and under-deliver'.
It is almost a no-win situation. They need to take their time to get it right and deliver something meaningful, but at the same time don't take so long that fans lose faith.
Communication is key.
The new Madden Voice community system will help with fans feeling listened to, but this only works if something is actioned otherwise it can make the situation worse.
It feels like EA is going to have to take some lumps from fans and try to share significant updates ready for Madden 22 to keep them engaged.
With other developers building relationships with the NFL, the competitor sharks are circling and EA won't want to see the same thing happen to Madden that happened to NBA Live.