If you love video games and football, you play Madden. You might not like EA's football franchise, but as the only mainstream NFL-licensed game out there it is played by millions around the world.
For years now the only part of Madden to receive any major attention and improvements has been Ultimate Team. Year after year MUT gets fresh promos, re-packaged favourites, and constant balancing & growth. While the rest of the game is left to stagnate, MUT usually improves. Well, not this year. The sloppiness and malaise that haunts the rest of the game has now infected MUT.
MUT players are used to players getting multiple cards. As the OVR ceiling is raised throughout the year players get upgraded, and by the end you can have stars with four or five different cards that were all useable at one point or another.
However, the return of players has picked up steam this year. We haven't even reached Thanksgiving and the Harvest program but we've already seen multiple players pop up over and over again.
Warren Moon has an 87 OVR Legends card, but has just dropped as a 91 OVR in the All-Madden program. Ed Reed similarly had an 87 OVR Legends card, only to then be given an AKA card too. Even Patriots safety Jabril Peppers has popped up twice, first in Unstoppable and now in Division Dynasty.
Other retreads include Martin Gramatica, Kenneth Walker, and Reggie White, while pre-order bonus AKA's of Sauce Gardner and Justin Jefferson were then re-released as boosted versions in the AKA program. It's not even like EA is reusing the most popular players.
Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, TJ Watt, and Fred Warner are yet to get any special card beyond their core elite ones. Sure, these players may be getting held back for Harvest or Zero Chill, but even then there are plenty of amazing players that are missing from programs while others seem to be looping around on a conveyor belt.
Warren Moon is now having his second run as the best QB in MUT, and while that might change when Season 3 rolls around next week it's disappointing to say the least.
License issues to blame?
Now EA can't just use a players likeness whenever they want. If they aren't part of the NFLPA then EA has to come to an individual agreement with that player for their NIL rights. That can be expensive and may explain why players like Jordan Gross, Dwight Freeney, Corey Dillon, and Thurman Thomas haven't been used.
It may be that the costs of NIL rights has shot up in recent years, or that EA's internal data shows that only a handful of ex-player cards are used anyway. Either way, it does somewhat undo the idea of an "Ultimate Team" when options are so limited.
There is another issue too, which is that EA seems to be altering player stats between reveal and them going live in the game. The latest example of this happened with the most recent All Madden drop which even saw massive Madden content creators call them out.
While this was rectified, it's been a problem previously and smells of poor internal communication at the very best. At worst, it is false advertising to stir up hype for cards that meaningfully raise the ceiling of the game at the elite level and convince players to spend more money on packs.
All in all Madden Ultimate Team is starting to feel like it is drifting in the same aimless direction that the rest of the game is. And that's a problem given it is the money-making engine that lets EA pay for the exclusive NFL license and still book a big profit.
With Fortnite getting hot again and Call of Duty dropping this week, Madden needs to do something to keep players around, and dropping the same players over and over won't do it.
For more articles like this, take a look at our Madden page.