Post-Release Support From EA Sports Slows With Madden NFL 12

Posted December 17th, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Madden NFL 12 is coming upon its 16th week since releasing at the end of August. Though word of mouth has been relatively strong – leading to a better hold in sales – one area of disappointment has been post-release support in the way of patches and ‘tuners’. That is no better demonstrated than by comparing the patches that came for Madden NFL 11 vs 12 and the lack of communication regarding any current plans for future support of the title. 

By the 17th week of Madden 11 being on the market it had received its fourth post-release patch. Now, one of those was to primarily address the misstep of the ‘Strategy Pad’ and removal of legacy pre-play controls, but the other three were to improve the game and introduce new features. The final one – which was somewhat of a surprise – made heavy changes to enhance defense. None of those were throw-away patches as they they all held some significance. They didn’t change the overall perception of Madden 11 but the support led to at least some goodwill that likely carried over to Madden 12.

As opined on previously Madden 12 wasn’t in desperate need of fixing severe issues and didn’t have any design decisions that demanded being immediately addressed like the ‘Strategy Pad’ of last year. Instead it had areas of weakness that could have been enhanced upon.

The first patch did do some good and it arrived on schedule with previous years at approximately six weeks after release. It fixed the problem with constant rain for certain teams in Franchise and a QB sneak exploit, improved organization in Custom Playbooks, and attempted to improve the commentary even if just slightly.

What it didn’t do was work on punt and kick return blocking, create an actual fight for the ball between DBs and WRs, or provide better scouting options in Franchise. Those certainly don’t represent the extent of feedback-based suggestions out there but they are the ones most commonly mentioned and noted in my impressions/review.

Could another patch effectively improve those areas? Possibly – though the extent of which would be in question. ‘Tuner’ updates, which were amongst the first features for Madden 12 announced, have been mysteriously absent with EA refusing to comment on why. They may be going away from the idea (with NCAA Football 12 only receiving one) given negative response to them in other titles – or there could be a technical reason behind their absence. EA should be upfront about why rather than ignoring it and hoping everyone just as soon forget it was ever mentioned.

The significant changes to the Madden NFL development team at Tiburon could be a factor in all this. Their focus may have turned to Madden NFL 13 – more so than usual given the shifting dynamics (reportedly doubling the team and the new leadership) and the potential efforts on implementing more sweeping changes.

One of the things pointed out when assessing all the changes at Tiburon was in Roy Harvey taking over for Phil Frazier as executive producer and how Harvey’s track record wasn’t strong in the sense of communication and community interaction. That may be coming into play here as NCAA 12 struggled mightily with communication following all the severe problems it released with and there has been a distinct lack of interaction from the Madden team relative to past iterations. Request for comment on issues like the missing ‘tuners’ have brought about “non-answer” answers and questions regarding any plans for another patch have gone unanswered.

None of this necessarily should lead to panic regarding Madden NFL 12 or the future of the series – but it is all worth noting as it could either foretell the way situations will be handled or simply be a one year aberration given all the changes with the dev team.