Madden Success in the Media

Dennis Faas's picture

It seems I'm not the only tech writer interested in the phenomenal (and annual) success of Electronic Arts' (EA) Madden series. The National Football League-based franchise of games, released every August to armchair quarterbacks around the world (but predominantly North America) routinely dominates the yearly video game sales charts, and is now being compared by some to Hollywood's biggest blockbusters.

When I wrote about Madden 07 a few weeks ago, I was particularly interested in the game because it so quietly seems to go about shaping the video game industry. Make no mistake, Madden is -- on average -- the biggest video game event of the year, and its success, with every late-summer release, continues to make EA the most dominant developer.

And yet, no one really talks about it. We get constant updates on Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, Vista, and even other games, like Halo 3 of GTA 4, but not Madden. More like a dragon than a groundhog, it peeks its nose out every August, sets the charts on fire, and goes back to sleep until the next back-to-school bonanza.

Just how much does Madden mean to EA? In considering this year's version alone, analysts expect Madden 07 to make up 7% of the company's entire annual $3 billion revenue.

It seems that the mainstream media is finally starting to notice this fact. Now, this writer won't take credit for pointing it out, but late last week Reuters took note of Madden's success. This says a lot, considering the fact that Reuters is a British newswire service, and "football" in England is something completely different than it is in southern Alabama.

Madden versus Hollywood

One of the most anticipated Hollywood releases this year was the "Da Vinci Code", a film starring Tom Hanks. Based on Dan Brown's popular book, the Da Vinci Code grossed about $110 million in its first week. By comparison, Madden, released every annum, this year brought EA $100 million, just slightly less than one of Hollywood's most-attended movies. (Source:

In an industry that continues to grow and find its place in mainstream culture, video games may actually depend on Madden. That's because sales, according to a chart produced by tech insiders ARS Technica, show that video game popularity remains, on average, much lower than movies. After a spike in the late 1980s with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment Console (NES), sales have generally settled into profits lower than Hollywood. (Source:

In the future, however, this could change. It will depend on industry growth in other areas, such as merchandise (like toys). Whether this happens in 2007 or 2017, you can be sure EA's Madden series will keep the video game industry alive and well.

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