Why Madden Doesn’t Sell on Nintendo

Today is the biggest football day of the year. I choose not to care. But I did decide to post some thoughts on why,  I think, that Madden NFL does not sell as well on Nintendo consoles as it does on other consoles. For that matter, this applies to sports titles, Call of Duty, and other franchises that send out a new title on a yearly basis.

And right there, I kind of hit the nail on the head. See, the average user of a Nintendo console has been conditioned by Nintendo themselves to not like this type of release schedule. Nintendo generally doesn’t believe in putting out more than one of their main franchises per console release. Let alone put a new version of such titles on a yearly basis. Super Smash Brothers is a great example. We just saw one come out on the Wii U and 3DS. Don’t expect another until next gen. Smash Bros. has only previously had a single entry on every other console.

It hasn’t been this way for every series however. I’m pointing my finger at you Mario Party. Unlike a lot of Nlntendo titles… Mario Party was an especially easy and cheap game to put out new versions of. In addition, they  tended to sell really well without major new additions. There was 3 Mario parties on the N64 and 4 on the Gamecube.

But then I think something happened. First, sales started to dwindle with each iteration. But I think during the Gamecube days, Nintendo made a very large mistake. They started putting out too many generic Mario titles. In addition to Mario Party and Smash Bros., we also had Mario Kart, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Super Mario Strikers (Soccer), and Mario Baseball (sure I am missing a few). I think at this point, Nintendo began to notice that all of these titles, many of which started up on the N64, started to decrease in sales. Even though they were fun to play, it became too much. It was around this time during the early years of the Wii that they stopped pushing yearly Mario Party and many of the sports titles ceased getting updates at all. My belief is that Nintendo took a step back and realized that over saturating the market with these types of titles was actually damaging their brand. And so they began the philosophy of only one per console.

Now, in general, we will only see one Primary Mario Platformer, One “New” Mario Platformer, perhaps a “3D” Mario game, a Mario Kart, a Smash Brothers, a Donkey Kong Returns, a Zelda, etc. But likely no more than one. This isn’t always going to be true, I think. We did get treated with a second Primary Mario Platformer on the Wii, but I think this will be more the exception than the rule.

And this turns to other companies who do over-saturate the market and ruin their brand. By and large, I do think that the market on Nintendo platforms will allow for multiple releases of a single title on a single platform, but known yearly commodities Nintendo consumers are more hesitant about. Madden for example… I for one enjoy having a Madden game. I bought one of the Maddens on the Gamecube and played it  for hours on end. I wanted to get a Madden on the Wii, thinking that the platform was perfect for sports games but early reports were that the game was not very good and so I waited for a later release. Later in the Wii lifecycle, EA decided to changeup Madden on the Wii, likely because sales were soft because other consumers like myself wanted to wait for a good Madden rather than just blindly buy crappy ones, so they made a “kiddy” Madden. This had almost no interest for me so I didn’t buy any Madden at all for the Wii, I imagine others had the same issues. Finally  for the Wii U, EA decided to make a straight port, not the kiddy version of Madden, but like early Wii games, reports were that it was a pretty bad port. So again, I was choosing to wait a generation or two until they could figure it out. But by then EA had squandered 7 years of crappy  Madden ports that weren’t selling and decided to stop making Madden entirely. Personally, I’d rather have no port than what they were giving us, but it is sad that they  aren’t even trying anymore.

Still, you see what was happening? I was holding out for a playable copy of the game because I didn’t want to get a second version of Madden. Contrast this to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 owners who seem to blindly buy every single edition of Madden, FIFA, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, and so forth, just based on name brand alone despite offering nothing new to the series and it is a wonder that they don’t seem to sell when in addition to offering nothing new, they also do bad ports.

When did this idea of reselling the same game on a yearly basis really take hold anyway? I remember in the NES and SNES days, you did get sports games more frequently, but I don’t remember them being yearly. I think on the NES RBI Baseball was the most frequent series at 3 editions, and the NES was out for what 8 or 9 years? I feel like it wasn’t until 3D became a thing that we started seeing yearly updates. The big thing people seem to enjoy is having stats and players updated, but why is this a thing? Does it really enhance the game to have Johnny Manzel in the series? If the game is good, it shouldn’t matter that rosters are a little out of date. And really rosters don’t really change that drastically year in and year out anyway. I know EA has mentioned in the past that they were working on adding downloadable roster updates in the future, but if they do that they risk losing their cash cow. Even if they charge $10 per year of roster updates, that still is going to pale in comparison to the yearly $60 they get now. The yearly update also protects them from shoddy work. They don’t have to care as much each year if one game is bad, there’s always next year right?

We as consumers really need to stop allowing this to happen. Having a new Madden, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, or Mario Party is not good for the games industry. Quite the contrary, this type of marketing has the potential to crash the industry again. Over-saturation of a product is not good. Just ask Harmonix and Activision how that worked out with Rock Band and Guitar Hero.