Former MLB: The Show Lead Designer Becomes Madden NFL Creative Director

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Posted December 22nd, 2011 at 4:45 pm

There has been both a great deal of turnover and an expansion of the dev team for the Madden NFL franchise at Tiburon this year. Several top names at the studio left in the spring and their positions were filled by the likes of Cam Weber as the GM of football products, Roy Harvey taking over as the new executive producer (following Phil Frazier’s departure), and Mike Young being elevated to creative director (previously held by Ian Cummings).

Today Kolbe Launchbaugh made official via Twitter that he would be leaving SCEA immediately to become creative director on Madden NFL. Launchbaugh had held the position of supervisor of game design on the MLB: The Show franchise having advanced up the ranks over the course of his 15 years there. The Show has risen to become one of the highest regarded sports franchises around – with gameplay and authenticity being the driving force behind that perception.

It’s unclear right now what that means for Mike Young given his comment on Twitter that nothing changes for him. Maybe there will be a split with one on current gen (360/PS3) and the other working on the next-gen product while a more juicy theory comes from the comments where ‘Black Cesar’ suggests it could be a disguising of the beginnings of MVP Baseball’s return (though that series was developed out of EA Canada originally it could start back up anywhere including Tiburon) with Launchbaugh’s true role being on that product.

Launchbaugh’s transition comes too late in the development process to drastically alter the course of Madden NFL 13 – though obviously he’ll have a great deal of influence on the product from here on out. Request for comment from EA Sports has been made but given that the typical contacts are out of the office for the holidays a clear picture of what the new hire will mean for the shaping of the Madden NFL development team may not come until a later date.

(Update): Launchbaugh will focus on “next-gen” as a team is currently already at work on that – which could encompass the Wii U and/or PS4 and next Xbox.

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  • I just asked Mike Young on twitter if he is going to stay as creative director or not and he replied: “@vlnj13 nothing changes for me. “

  • Toad

    “Launchbaugh’s transition comes too late in the development process to drastically alter the course of Madden NFL 13 ” 
    What the fuck is this shit? How is he too late? 

    • Its nearly January. What features are going to be in/what is going to get special attention was largely decided before even Madden 12 released. Things can still evolve as I stated but no one is going to come in and change the plan for Madden 13 at this point. It’s just not possible timing wise.

      • No more Madden

        How about they just decide scrap Madden 13 altogether like they did with their crappy basketball game?

        How about they pay a visit to 2k Sports/Visual Concepts and learn how to make a great football game. How about they build a brand new game engine before they ever make another Madden football game.

        How about the NFL doing the right thing by its fans and going with a different developer/publisher every other NFL season so we can see the best football video game possible get released or they should just allow for competition again between publishers of NFL videogames.

        Madden football needs a complete reboot. Tweaks and patches every season to the same dull, lifeless football engine isn’t cutting it anymore. This franchise is dead. They need to sit it out a couple of football seasons and start from scratch. I miss John Madden. This next gen crap EA Sports has been releasing since the 360 and PS3 launched isn’t John Madden football anymore. It needs to die.

        • rr

          Not going to happen you cynical a-hole. Also, nobody is going to read all of that…

          • Haha, three paragraphs? Three paragraphs is too much to read?

            A) You’re a fucking moron if you think three paragraphs is a lot.

            B) If you didn’t read it, how do you know he’s a cynical a-hole?

            C) Oh man, this guy is tired of paying $60 for the same shitty game every year! How cynical! How jaded of him! He sure is missing out on the joys of the same game year in, year out, with inaccurate roster updates and minor engine tweaks that cause more problems than they fix.

            D) I’d like to reiterate just how massively fucking stupid you must be if you think 3 paragraphs is a lot.

          • K.

          • No3456

            I’d like to point out that his post got more reads and likes than any other on the forum.

          • rr

            K.

          • Jeff

            You seem like a real douche

        • dude they did that with madden 11 and 12

        • WE DON’T WANT CRAPPY MADDEN WITH NO WORK PUT INTO IT AND WE DEFINITELY DONT WANT 2K SPORTS GAME PLAY. WE WANT PS2 GAMEPLAY OR IF NOT THAT ATLEAST MAKE IT LIKE MADDEN 10. THE GAME THEY HAVE OUT NOW THEY LET ANYBODY WIN ITS SAD

          • No more Madden

            2K was more than just better gameplay(my opinion). They created an NFL fantasy environment with their game. The had ESPN. They had Boomer. They had the atmosphere and emotion of playing as your favorite team and trying to get to the Superbowl. They had great lively 2 man commentary during the game. They had the emotion of the players on the sidelines. Everything little thing that they did showed they were really their best in trying to create an NFL fantasy for the player. They must have loved what they were doing. They had the worst marketing for their games too. They games were sold by having a low $ 20 price point and positive word of mouth. On the other hand, Madden is the same shitty, dull, game every year sold at full price and gamers as well as reviewers already know what to expect…the exact same shitty, dull game as the previous year  with newer menus. This is not even debatable. This is fact.

          • Rm7280

            Well said

  • Black Cesar

    This is a stealth move, kolbe is getting ready to start up the MVP series for next gen. It’s easy too see.

  • Nav

    didnt ea learn guys should stick to their sport of expertise? nba elite was a huge failure cause they got an nhl guy to run it. now madden will have a baseball guy running it. not a good thing imo

  • Update added. He’ll be working on the “next-gen” team. That probably means first up is Wii U and maybe then transitioning to PS4 and next Xbox.

  • Keith.

    As a huge Show fan, this news really bums me out. And as a huge Cards fan, it kind’ve feels like Pujols signing with the Angels.

    But as a longtime Tiburon football hater, it’s welcome news. Tiburon’s never had anyone this good working there before.

  • jackmeoff

    Is Madden 13 the last Madden before the exclusive deal runs out? Just curious.

    • jackmeoff

      This was a serious question.

    • No3456

      The NFL is never allowing multiple licenses again – they have already looked at the business models and stated the exclusive model is the only viable model for them – IE they will never go back.

  • *looks at update*

    Well damn. Anything that would’ve further shaken up the same group of dumbasses who’ve been ruining current-gen to this point would’ve been a plus. Internal turnover is one thing, but I would’ve really liked to see them put the person with experience on an actual quality franchise to work on something we’ll see right away. Same old EA approach, I guess. “Just wait (a year / two years / until the next console / a decade or three / until your kids are your age), the version we’ll put out then will totally rock! We promise!”

    Oh well eh. I haven’t bought it for years, and I won’t buy it again until they get serious about making a quality product. And I mean exactly that- an actual quality product, not creating the appearance of one by throwing in a bunch of great-sounding features that’re broken in practice. This year’s Madden is an absolute nightmare, with broken man coverage and momentum-free players on ice skates gliding all over the field and turning on a dime. You have linebackers with Calvin Johnson ups and stickum-coated gloves. You see miscellaneous UDFA guys taking over the rosters, with teams jettisoning first- and second-round picks to sign 5’10 250lb. D-Tackles who are rated 47 with an F potential. The draft process is a giant black box with a question mark on it, as you’re unable to get much useful information on most positions, and virtually none on the positions that need non-physical stats. You can use your private workouts for QBs and guys with mental stats, but surprise! The guys whose stats you reveal with those expect to be paid with full-sized contracts, as though they were signed in free agency. Then you’ve got the commentary… my god. Enough said.

    Fix the goddamn game already, EA. Don’t expect a cent from me until you do. There are plenty of other ways for me to get ahold of a copy of Madden for the 30 minutes it takes each year to verify that there still ain’t shit changed.

    Oh, and at some point can we have back the roughly 3000 plays that were removed from the game to make it “simpler, faster, deeper” last year? Yeah, let’s reduce each team’s playbook by 1/3. It’s not like every team already feels generic and undifferentiated as is- let’s figure out a way to make it all feel just a bit more the same.

  • Hlkjlkj

    So they’re going to be working on the next gen?  This gen still needs fixing.

    • No more Madden

      If EA is going to dominate the next gen consoles with another exclusive NFL deal for a new generation of generic football, it would absolutely suck for everybody. Madden 2006 should have never been released.

      I am beyond sick of listening to their trademark slogan “EA Sports. It’s in the game.”

      If it was in the friggin game, why does your football game suck EVERY year. It hasn’t EVER been in the game, whatever “IT” is.

      • No3456

        You understand that The NFL makes 4x more via their exclusive deal so they will NEVER allow multiple licenses again right?

        As much as it sucks for the consumer, the NFL loves EA.

    • Keith.

      Hard to believe we may go a whole generation without seeing such basic things as in-game saves, but it’s beginning to look that way.  This generation’s game will continue to make marginal improvements, but it’s sad that we’ll probably have to wait until next gen hits before we see things that should’ve been in this generation from the get-go.

  • Anonymous

    THey already workin on next gen? Well, lets see if they finally get DB/WR interaction right. I dont know whats so hard about it. Get some DBs and WRs and motion cap them. THey have the money to do it. If not….they get a RASENGAN!

  • Daniel Kinkaid

    Good news; maybe Madden will actually be fun to play again in a few years…

  • rr

    Madden needs that Euphoria engine. It’s going to waste on these stupid iOS games

  • i just hope the new creative and director realize how good madden 10 was and just go off that rather than the bs we play now I HATE MADDEN 11 AND 12. 

  • Rm7280

    so no real changes in 2013, anyone surprized?

  • Anonymous

    On the face of it and speaking as a big fan of the MLBTS series, this is great news. As always however it depends a lot on how much he is leaned on by the Tiburon execs and marketing as to whether his creativity is stifled by them. I don’t think it’s been any secret that progress in the development of Madden has long been constrained by the constant need for a few headline-making back-of-the-box features (also described as gimmicks) and a desire to roll out new developments over as lengthy of a period of time as opposed to making the best game possible, as quickly as possible.