Why is Madden Still $60?

Precursor note: This has nothing to do with yearly updates or “it’s always the same.” There’s more to it than that.

We were told that game development is getting expensive. It’s more difficult to make games, it takes bigger teams, and sky-high budgets. That’s why video games are $60.

But why Madden? Sales dropped 10% from the 2009 edition to 2010, but is it because of the price, or have people wised up?

Playing Madden 11 pre-release for a review irked me. I made it into the red zone, Jay Cutler providing an epic 90-yard drive Bears fan could only dream about, and the Old Spice whistle jingle played. The company logo appeared on screen. New commentator Gus Johnson feverishly provided the corporate line, more enthusiastically than he does on any incredible play. He apparently likes Old Spice more than a 100-yard kick-off return.

There’s more though. Fans outside the stadium have their Doritos lined up very precisely on a table outside their mobile home, and the company provides the play of the game during a very brief post-game wrap-up. Verizon sponsors drive wrap-ups, even during AFL games. Why go through the trouble of making a vintage “film” filter, complete with scratches and sepia tones, if you’re going to ruin the entire thing with Verizon ads? Maybe Joe Horn was onto something.

Still, after $60, they still want more, the concept of “Madden coins” a paid for service that lets you boost your players or teams stats. Here’s an idea: How about giving players Madden coins when they have to endue the same Old Spice ad for the 10th time in a game? Also, don’t the ads pay for the online play, yet we’re being charged for that if we buy the game used? Don’t used buyers see the same ads?

Maybe sales dropped because we’re tired of being treated like idiots. Gamers have turned into fodder, something these massive companies can latch onto and continually pull in bonuses from. The combination of Doritos, Verizon, and Old Spice is enough to cover one year of development. That is prime real estate and the exact demographic they want. Don’t believe for a second profit is an issue.

More disgusting? Not a single developer is credited anywhere on the box or in the manual, even with a logo. You have to dig to find that information buried in the menu.

But what of the realistic experience? Surely those ads create the air of authenticity, and really the only thing missing are pop-ups for upcoming TV programming. That’s fine actually. Sports games should have ads, assuming the product is going to a TV-style presentation, and not many try for anything else.  However, that product should then not cost full price.

Can anyone believe the advertising is not off-setting significant amounts of the cost to make the product, especially when it comes to yearly sequels?