If you’re a football fan in your early or mid-20s you probably have fond memories of the Madden titles on older consoles. However, your memories of recent renditions of the football video game are probably mired in disappointment. Now, in the midst of the NFL playoffs, many football fans are longing for the days when Madden was an immersive and exciting experience.
Aside from the laziness and apathy from EA Sports, the game is a symptom of a larger issue: corporate greed. In 2004, EA secured exclusive rights to the NFL license for “simulation” games. This means other major studios with successful sports titles, like 2K, are barred from providing any competition for EA. To boil it down, EA found a way to undercut the free market, and the results are hard to swallow.
Sadly, Madden has fallen far from grace. The result is a game on the future of gaming hardware that pales in comparison to its decades old predecessors. Youtuber SOFTDRINKTV has done a better job explaining exactly what went wrong than I ever could.
It may seem trivial to categorize a football game’s failures as a result of an issue as troubling as corporate greed, but it’s synonymous of a scarier problem. EA knows you hate Madden, but they’re making so much money it doesn’t matter what you think.
EA has moved away from the immersive simulation model of sports video games (think Dynasty Mode on the NCAA football games), toward a competitive, micro-transaction driven model. In a sense, Madden 21 resembles Fortnite more than Madden 07.
At the heart of this is Ultimate Team mode, a card-based team generator that appeals to streamers and competitive players. EA loves this game mode so much because it’s pay-to-win. Children see streamers spend hundreds of dollars to get one single card, and then spend their parents real money hoping for the same outcome. This game mode, which is also present on FIFA games, made EA $1.49 billion in 2020 alone. That shocking sum of money is all EA needs to worry about because they have no competition.
It would be ridiculous to compare the football video game to early 20th century robber barons, but it is a troubling precedent. If video game companies can monopolize an extremely popular segment of the video game market, what’s stopping anything else in popular culture from being owned by one entity?
Could you imagine if a mega-corporation, like Disney, bought out all the rights to a wildly popular genre of films? Oh, that’s right, they already have.
No, EA is not as bad as Standard Oil circa-1900, but their aggressive practices show that our culture can be monopolized. It’s football and comic books today, but in the future nearly all of your cultural experiences could be dominated by a select few companies. Don’t let that be the case.
Noah Wright is a senior studying strategic communication at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Noah? Tweet him @NoahCampaign.