The name change to Connected Franchise is accompanied by a whole new career path in Madden NFL 25. For some time Owner mode has appeared to be what will determine most the value of this year’s edition in the series at least in terms of new features.
What follows is a run-through of the Owner mode experience. There simply was not enough time to analyze every feature included within, but instead this represents a general overview of how the mode shapes up and its potential lasting appeal. Every snap was played in every game of the season as well as running into year two and testing out a few features independently. Check out the FB album for nearly 100 screenshots and don’t miss the full write-up of general gameplay, presentation, and mode impressions that also went up today.
When starting the first thing to choose is the career path. Owner, Coach, or Player. Coach and Player are the same as were found in Connected Careers last year. Owner adds on all the executive functions. Then comes creating the character (can choose to use a Game Face) or picking an active player/coach/owner or legend.
Again there are backstories to choose from. As an Owner they are “Former Player”, “Lifelong Fan”, and “Financial Mogul” – each one has their advantages and disadvantages. Selecting the team to use is followed by all the settings that can be adjusted for the league. “Online” and “Offline” franchises are essentially identical this year in terms of features.
The franchise run through here was played with 10 minute quarters and accelerated clock running down to 18 seconds on All-Pro difficulty with no changes made to sliders.
While Owner mode encompasses everything a Coach does – including playing all the games – it also adds on new responsibilities. Those include making media statements (which only happened three times during the season), setting prices on concessions items and merchandise, and hiring and firing staff. Of course there is also renovating stadiums, building new stadiums, or relocating teams to other markets. Like coaches, owners also have a set of goals to achieve.
What I initially did was go into the Finances section and lowered ticket prices, lowered the cost of Ryan Tannehill signed footballs, increased the price on Mike Wallace and Dion Jordan jerseys, and upped the price on some concession items. Interestingly better food (likely with improved margins) can be offered when a stadium’s concessions facilities are highly rated.
The goal I had with the Dolphins was to build them a new stadium or, if there was some sort of resistance to that, move them to another city. There was nothing stopping me from getting started on a new stadium which could be built for kick-off the next season. This won’t necessarily be possible for every team since the circumstances dictate options.
A few weeks after choosing “rebuild” came time to choose the stadium that would be constructed out of 10 options. I went with one of the cheaper ones (Basic Canopy). Considering the fair weather fan base let them complain. They’ll show up if the team is winning! You’ll see in those sections also a fan Twitter feed where they make comments about prices, things that need to be improved, or in this case them being critical of the stadium choice.
In year two the new stadium opened which was pretty neat. Even for being one of the lesser options it definitely felt special. One thing to note is that it seems having a new stadium means no more blimp shots of it prior to the game or in between quarters. It’s a shame that the outside of the stadium is never seen again after viewing the image used originally to help select it.
Relocating is handled in a similar manner to building a new stadium. When deciding to relocate (if the option is available for the team) early in the season the opportunity will be presented to choose the destination. There are 16 options – including Los Angeles, Portland, Ireland, England, Brooklyn, Toronto, and Mexico City – each one offering their own market size, personality, and fan interest. Each city offers up funding for a stadium (bigger market size means more money available for it) along with three options for team name and accompanying uniforms or you can stick with the current ones. Stadium choice follows a few weeks later. The eventual move takes place the next season.
In a few tests I moved the Oakland Raiders back to Los Angeles and kept the Raiders name instead of changing it. I also moved the Rams to Portland and made them the Lumberjacks. When changing the name you also get to decide between three different sets of uniform styles (traditional, modern, and classic).
Simming ahead to the 2016 season in one franchise the CPU Raiders, Rams, and Jaguars had all relocated. Though their current situations make them candidates to move that seems extreme.
Nice job by EA Sports to get in Levi’s Stadium for the 49ers beginning in year two of franchise mode. Typically something like that is held back for the year it is introduced. Though the Vikings were also mentioned in the Twitter feed as moving out of Mall of America Field their future stadium is not included so they would still need a new one built by an owner in the mode.
Players with high marketability can also factor in and that may be something to consider in signings or trades. The higher the popularity and personality of a player, the more their merchandise is going to move and they may impact other measurables as well.
I did not spend much time analyzing the influence that changes made in all the Owner areas had on team revenues. It’ll take some time to get a feel for how much effort needs to be put in to monitoring changes. They more just lingered in the background for most the season and entering the offseason those revenues started to come into play beyond just the new stadium.
Preseason games have been disastrous in the past. Auto-switching first to second to third units resulted in star players showing back up on the field later in games and risking injury while kicking and punting became laughable. A few changes appear to have been made to limit the mess that was being created but they’re still not true preseason affairs.
The first unit plays though the first quarter. Like in the past the second unit replaces the starters after the first quarter ends even if that is in the middle of the drive. All four games are treated equally. The starters won’t play any longer in the second or third preseason game.
At least now the preseason games aren’t digging down further into the depth charts where things really started to get bad. Kickers and punters are thankfully not swapped out at all.
Presentation wise there is nothing to indicate it is the preseason. The commentary, crowd, and on-screen graphics are all the same as a regular season game.
It was a tough start to the year for the Dolphins. Offensive line struggles coupled with being devastated by injuries made it seem that every single yard had to be fought and scratched for. On defense it was a struggle to stop the opposing QB from converting third downs. Things started to open up in the middle of the season though. The run game started to click with Lamar Miller emerging as a go-to back, receivers started getting some separation, and Ryan Tannehill started hitting Mike Wallace for big plays. Check out the results of the games below.
at Browns 20-13 Loss
at Colts 41-24 Loss
vs Falcons 31-27 Win
at Saints 26-21 Loss
vs Ravens 39-28 Loss
vs Bills 31-24 Win
at Patriots 44-17 Win
vs Bengals 33-6 Loss
at Buccaneers 29-21 Win
vs Chargers 24-10 Win
vs Panthers 27-10 Win
at Jets 41-23 Win
at Steelers 24-13 Loss
vs Patriots 13-7 Win
at Bills 20-14 Win
vs Jets 34-17 Win
10-6 Regular Season Record. AFC East Champs!
vs Patriots Wild Card Playoff 13-9 Loss
Knew it would be tough to beat the Patriots three times in a season and that turned out to be the case. Had Tannehill and Wallace not gotten hurt, and been there at the end, the game could very well have gone the other way.
There is reason for some concern pertaining to injuries. Following week three my Dolphins had nine players on the injured list. The team got somewhat healthier later in the season but there would still be at least a few injuries every game. Sometimes the players would return later in the game and other times they were hurt for extended periods.
It isn’t so much the rate of injuries but who they happen to that really stands out. Skill position players are hit far more often – didn’t see a single offensive lineman injury – and the same guys tend to get hurt over and over throughout the season.
It’s wise to avoid contact at all costs. I was cautious about Ryan Tannehill all season – limiting read options plays, sliding or going out of bounds at every opportunity – and he still got hurt five or six times. In fact, the first time scrambling with him was in the third quarter of the season opener, and what looked like a mild hit knocked him out for four weeks.
Across the league from simmed games injuries appeared to be fairly well balanced. There was a wide variety (not just abdominal tears like was so prevalent in the demo) of injury types as well as pertaining to the severity of them.
Unfortunately there is no IR designated to return option to use on one player a season. Only regular IR is available which means hanging on to a player that will be out deep into the season on the active roster and not getting the opportunity to replace them for that stretch.
This isn’t a huge problem for Madden since players aren’t deactivated for each game and rare is the occasion where anyone on the bottom of the depth chart is needed. Still it would have been a nice authentic touch to have in franchise. So would having players listed as “questionable” going into a week. It’s always interesting to find out what players are deactivated an hour before game time. Sometimes there are surprises. In Madden’s franchise mode there is just no suspense.
Player Progression, Scouting, Practice, and Trades
The use of XP for upgrading players and coaches, scouting players for the upcoming draft, and completing practices for XP all appeared to be the same as last year. Values may have been altered but conceptually they haven’t changed. Due to time considerations these elements were simmed most weeks. Seeking out trades either manually or through the trade block is easier to do given the changes to the menus but I did not have the time to test the fairness of the trade system. The CPU did make a few trades between themselves.
This is the area where Madden NFL 13 flatlined with the introduction of Connected Careers and sadly Madden NFL 25 has done almost nothing to improve from that with Connected Franchise. It’s really disappointing that something so acutely lacking last year would go practically untouched and it severely damages the intended immersive nature of the mode.
There are no on-screen graphics showing division standings or playoff race. The QB will get his stats shown upon entering the game the first time on occasion but I did not see anything showing season stats for other players or for the team.
There is also no ticker or studio update to deliver scores from around the league. The halftime show is the same basic thing as any other game just showcasing a few replays. When in a game there is almost nothing that ties back into the league or developments with the team as the season progresses.
The Twitter and news feeds return though no longer on the home screen of the mode. There are even mentions about the new stadiums coming for the 49ers, Vikings, and the one being built for my Dolphins at the tail end of the year. Breast Cancer Awareness month is still represented in October, and my season didn’t get stuck with the pink beyond that month like happened often in Madden 13! However there is no Military Appreciation Day which would also be great to have.
Commentary references are limited to mentioning that a team was successful or struggled the previous week on third downs. The opening also did mention once that the Dolphins were on a three game winning streak. Literally though that’s it. Nothing about the standings or playoff race, last week’s result, season statistics for players or the teams, or who’s not playing due to injury. They did note in the opening to the last regular season game at Sun Life Stadium that it would be the last game played there (since my new stadium was set to open the next year).
I went into the last game of the regular season tied with the Patriots for the division lead but with the tiebreaker on them. You wouldn’t have known the division crown was on the line. It wasn’t mentioned by the commentators and there was nothing on screen to signify what a critical game it was. In the playoffs the commentary is essentially the same as the regular season. Like last year the playoff games have team intros.
The crowd is only at about 60% capacity in any game that has rain or snow. Even big games, playoff games, and the Super Bowl! In what NFL does EA think fans don’t show up to games when it rains? All crowds sound the same and with the exception of a few unique chants there is no personality defining the experience of playing in different stadiums.
The one really cool touch to the presentation comes with the intro videos that are exclusive to primetime games and the playoffs. Otherwise there isn’t much to talk about improvement wise.
The games just feel completely bland and isolated from everything going on only in the menus. Really disappointing all around.
Overall the scoring numbers look about right from user-games but I had some worry that they were high considering the below average number of possessions and offensive yardage gained with the 10 minute quarter, 18 second rundown settings. Refer to the full gameplay impressions for insight on why that might be the case.
Notable Dolphins stats
Ryan Tannehill (13 games): 2232 yards, 22 TD, 12 INT, 63% Comp
Lamar Miller (12 games): 223 carries, 1245 yards, 5.6 Avg, 10 TD
Daniel Thomas (14 games): 104 carries, 358 yards, 3.4 Avg, 3 TD
Mike Wallace: 69 Rec, 1446 yards, 21.0 Avg, 11 TD
Brian Hartline 56 Rec, 651 yards, 11.6 Avg, 6 TD
Dannell Ellerbe: 84 tackles, 3 sacks
Cameron Wake (11 games): 44 tackles, 19 sacks
Dion Jordan: 42 tackles, 12 sacks
Brent Grimes: 37 tackles, 1 sack, 8 interceptions, 7 pass deflections
MVP: Colin Kaepernick
Coach of the Year: John Harbaugh
NFC Defensive Player of the Year: Bobby Wagner
AFC Defensive Player of the Year: Derrick Johnson
AFC Offensive Player of the Year: Ray Rice
NFC Offensive Player of the Year: Colin Kaepernick
Scores for the simmed games in the league came out looking pretty good. There weren’t a ton of really high scoring games or blowouts – one or two sprinkled in each week – but overall good variety of results.
You can check out the league leaders in various statistical categories and final records/standings within the giant set of screenshots for Connected Franchise mode.
As an owner the offseason adds in the tasks of signing head coaches, scouts, and trainers. Each one depending on their prestige will carry with them bonuses that apply to the team.
Outside of that the offseason is very similar to last year. Free agency is handled in the same manner and the NFL Draft is mostly unchanged. The addition to mention there is Adam Schefter offering comments on some of the picks. It sounds authentic though I’m not sure if Schefter is the guy you’d expect to provide analysis on college players.
♦A transaction log is included after being inexplicably left out last year.
♦The user interface makes much more sense and is laid out more efficiently.
♦Position changes can be made during the offseason. Does affect some ratings.
♦Custom Playbooks can now be taken into a Connected Franchise.
♦Fantasy Drafts are available for both online and offline franchises.
♦A season can be started utilizing any saved roster set or by doing a Fantasy Draft.
♦Draft Classes can be imported from NCAA Football 14 (did not have time to test).
♦After preseason is when you can import the draft class.
♦EA hasn’t announced anything on being able to transfer Xbox 360/PS3 franchises to One/PS4. Given it would be used as a selling point the fair assumption then is that it won’t be happening.
Owner mode provides some compelling elements which will be especially fun when joined by friends but Connected Franchise as a whole fails again in tying events from the league into the actual games. That could severely dampen long-term enthusiasm towards the mode.