Madden 12 SOK Currently Restricted to Two Attempts Per Game

Posted February 8th, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Throughout the debate regarding the potential inclusion of surprise onside kicks to Madden 12 there were several factors that came up for consideration. Chief among them if the rate they are attempted in the NFL warranted the development time. Also what is their success rate and how do you implement an element of surprise to a video game?

The answer to the first is that surprise onside kicks are attempted at an average of just over 10 times per season but the 2010-2011 season saw an uptick to 14. The use of it in the Super Bowl was likely responsible for influencing coaches to consider it more often. It is sometimes seen as a move of desperation but more importantly it can be used to shift momentum as seen in the Super Bowl. It certainly was important to have it in Madden given SOK’s growing prominence and awareness towards the coaching option.

Ian Cummings has tweeted regarding the feature stating that right now it is limited to just two attempts per game and even that is an adjustable field in the tuners. He also mentioned that it has rarely been successful (“like 1 for 100”) which will have to be adjusted. In the NFL surprise onside kicks are successful 60% of the time as compared to 20% for regular onside kicks.

Now obviously Madden can’t have them work at a 60% clip or that would be worth taking a shot at regardless of the game situation at least once. What would ideally happen is to see the percentage rise in particular strategical situations. The opening kick-off of each half, after a score that starts to gain momentum in a comeback, or against a high powered offense that has had its way during the course of the game being a few examples.

A team up by two touchdowns should be penalized for trying it by having the chance of success fall drastically since it doesn’t make sense to do so there. So rewarding players for using it in the right situations would be nice, and penalizing those who use it improperly or more than once with much lower success rates could help discourage it from being misused and exploited.

“Surprise” is really a tough thing to add to a video game particularly against other users. The way it has been put into Madden 12, that rather than picking a play it is done by pushing a different button on the third push, is a nice way to do that for the offense where they can go by gut feel. Many surprise onside kicks happen because the kicking team sees the blockers falling back early which won’t be happening in Madden though.

One idea would be to give the defense an option of playing it “safe” against a potential surprise onside kick. Maybe even a button press in the moments leading up to the kickoff that would up the awareness of the receiving team for it. The trade-off could be that the blocking on the return would not be as effective.

There is of course the inherent risk-reward involved with trying an onside kick. Coaches, even those playing a game of Madden, should have to consider that risk that makes it a relatively rare decision in the NFL. Maybe if Madden was more balanced where field position felt like it mattered more that would set in naturally. With defense getting some extra focus this year hopefully that will be the case.

I think ultimately locking it at one attempt per game though makes the most sense. The opportunity to catch the opposition off-guard is completely gone after one try, and no team is going to go for it again whether they got the first or didn’t. That would also force the user to more strategically use that one attempt that they have stored away.