Madden 11 Sales Now Struggling

Posted November 17th, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Last year Madden 10 came out relatively weak early on and then showed great strength through the holidays providing a year-over-year increase from Madden 09. That development was based largely on very good word of mouth. Madden 11 initially broke out of the gate with a 12% increase in first month sales. Now it has tailed off and overall is down 18% year-over-year. There are several reasons why Madden 11 is now having trouble holding its ground.

With Madden 11 EA Sports took an approach that centered on appealing to casual players. The argument could be made why that was necessary but at the same time casuals are less likely to commit to and be passionate about a product. Look at franchises like MLB: The Show, FIFA, and NBA 2K which have been designed with the hardcore players in mind. They have seen huge sales surges over the past few years.

Word of mouth is clearly not as strong as it was with Madden 10. That is what drove sales to stronger returns past its first month. That could also be a factor in the initial sales for Madden 11. Often it is sales of the previous year’s game, or the recent history at least, that is the biggest influence in how the current year’s game will open. The Madden series has been on the incline in terms of quality and focus and gamers were catching on to that.

This could really though be an indication of a fault with one of EA Sports’ latest initiatives. The “Online Pass” was introduced earlier this year as a way to make back some money on used sales. Codes are inserted in new copies of games that grant access to online functionality. Used or rental copies would then require a $10 commitment, which goes straight to EA, in order to unlock online.

The “Online Pass” along with several very appealing pre-order incentives pushed sales of the title right around release. Those with the most interest in the game had the incentive to buy it immediately. That left anyone else in a spot where the game suddenly was a tougher sell. Incentives that made the game essentially $40 were gone while the need to buy new was still present.

Reviews for Madden 11 were actually down slightly from Madden 10. The marketing was strong leading up to release and then faded, but that is no different from any other year. It could have turned out to be a tougher sell than anticipated with features that may have made sense and improved the experience though were anything but compelling.

Regardless of the drop in sales EA Sports could very well be making more money off Madden 11. They have gone to great lengths to expand their downloadable content options, have modes that basically funnel money in (Ultimate Team), and have continued to increase advertising within the game. Now they are also making $10 off many of the used copies as they exchange hands.

Ultimately EA Sports should be alarmed by a drop in sales. Madden 11 missed the mark in terms of features and consumers are growing weary of how much in the way of microtransactions and advertising is being shoved down their throats. Hopefully this sales slide has opened some eyes with consumers clearly showing what they want out of a product such as Madden.