I was inspired a few weeks ago by a Twitter post from Ryan Moody (@ShutdownSafety), who asked why people are being so negative about football video gaming, and why people aren't making content. Well, I decided that I'd make some content sharing some of my optimism about the future of football video gaming in the next few years. I posted a video to my YouTube channel, but loyal blog readers can read the full transcription here.

YouTube: Will 2020 be a good year for football video games?

Football video games have been in a rut for a while now. The exclusivity deal between the NFL and EA didn't only kill NFL 2k series, it also may have killed the NFL Gameday, NFL Fever, NFL Blitz, and other series as well, some of which had game releases as late as 2004. All Pro Football 2k8 is now eleven years old. Backbreaker came and went nine years ago, leaving EA as the only major publisher still making football video games. EA's own NCAA Football series is now in the fifth year of its hiatus (the optimist in me still prefers to use the term "hiatus" instead of "cancellation"). This has all left football video gamers with nothing but mediocre Madden releases for years.

EA's NFL exclusivity may have put the final nail in the coffin for other games besides just NFL 2k.

All that being said, I am actually very optimistic about football video gaming come 2020 or 2021.

New indie games on the market

First and foremost, Madden's 5-year complete monopoly on consoles was broken this year with the releases of Canuck Play's Maximum Football 2018 and Axis Games' Axis Football 18. For the first time since 2013, there are football games on consoles not called Madden, and for the first time since 2009, there are football games on consoles that are not published by EA.

So why do I still consider football gaming to be in a rut?

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Chicago Bears alt logo

I think I might finally be buying into this 2018 Bears team. They locked up an NFC North division title by beating the Packers this past weekend, and might still be able to clinch home field advantage if the Bears can beat the 49ers and Vikings, and if the Rams and Saints manage to drop their last two games. In fact, the Bears have the head-to-head tie-breaker against the Rams, and would be the second seed if they tie. I don't think it's gonna happen, but it is possible...

While the Bears do seem to finally have a complete team with talent at every level of both the offense and defense, I really feel like most of the credit deserves to go to first year head coach Matt Nagy. After suffering through the years of Mark Trestman and John Fox, I am finally happy with Chicago's coach hiring decision. Nagy is regularly out-scheming and out-coaching the Bears' opponents and putting his players in position to make plays and let their talent shine. Trading for Khalil Mach from the Raiders seems to have pushed the Bears from a good team to a legit playoff contender. Finally, this organization is making the right decisions!

I was actually pleasantly surprised to be in this position. I had some initial concerns with the hiring of Nagy. He's an offensive-minded coach with the pedigree of one of the best QB coaches of all time, Andy Reid. Chicago has tried hiring offensive-minded coaches, and they have all failed miserably. Nagy was also coming off of an offensive collapse by the Chiefs in the playoffs, so there was some doubt about whether he was really as good as Alex Smith's Pro Bowl-level performance was making Nagy look. My expectations were not particularly high. I figured that Nagy would get a better performance out of the offense than Trestman and Fox (and even Lovie Smith) were ever able to do. He also benefits from not being burdened with having to deal with Jay Cutler. But I prefer watching smash-mouth football with dominant defense and a battering run attack. I was not expecting that from Nagy's team.

Nagy is really getting quality performances out of his players.

I was wrong. The Bears are playing "Bears football". The kind of football that I love to watch. They are devouring teams defensively, and making the offense look good by giving them plenty of opportunities with the ball. What's really surprising me, however, is that the offense looks to be genuinely good on its own. Unlike that 2006 Bears' Superbowl run, this team's defense does not appear to be carrying the offense.

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XFL logo

Slumping ratings and controversy around concussions and national anthem protests aren't the only problems facing the NFL now. The NFL is going to have some competition in the form of at least two new professional football leagues!

The XFL wants to be no joke

A few days ago, the new XFL released a list of the cities that will host its inaugural teams, and I have to say, I'm a bit confused by the decisions. The cities that made the final cut are:

  • Dallas, Texas: Globe Life Park in Arlington
  • Houston, Texas: TDECU Stadium
  • Los Angeles, California: StubHub Center in Carson
  • New York, New York: MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford
  • Seattle, Washington: CenturyLink Field
  • St. Louis, Missouri: The Dome at America's Center
  • Tampa Bay, Florida: Raymond James Stadium
  • Washington, D.C.: Audi Field
XFL teams will be sharing cities (and in some cases, stadiums) with NFL teams.

I understand that the XFL would want its teams to be in large markets, but I'm surprised that every single one (except for St. Louis) is a city that already has an NFL team. So the XFL's teams will be competing with a firmly-established NFL team for fans and ticket sales in all but one of the XFL's inaugural cities. In fact, three of these teams will have to share a stadium with an NFL team. Metlife will be split between the New York XFL team, and the Jets and Giants of the NFL. CenturyLink Field will be shared with the Seahawks, and Raymond James will be shared with the Buccaneers. I was expecting the XFL to go after the largest markets that didn't already have NFL teams. Cities like St. Louis, San Diego, and Oakland were shoe-in destinations, in my mind, since they recently lost NFL teams, and so have empty, NFL-caliber (sort of) stadiums waiting for a new tenant.

Other than that, I was expecting to see the XFL go to places like Milwuake, Oklahoma City, Portland, Albuquerque, Boise, Honolulu, and other midsize markets. Las Vegas would also be a prime target, if not for the Raiders moving here in a year or two. The XFL also could have tried to beat the NFL to some foreign markets, such as Toronto, Vancuever (Canada), Mexico City, or London.

And if it were absolutely necessary to go into cities that already have NFL teams, I would have expected them go after cities that have historically bad or under-performing teams in the hopes of stealing away some disenfranchised fans. Tampa Bay certainly fits this bill. I was also thinking of places like Cleveland, Detroit, Pheonix, and Jacksonville.

Bully politics

I'll admit that I was actually excited by Vince McMahon's announcement of an XFL revival. McMahon's statements so far have indicated that he is taking the league much more seriously this time around, and that it won't be as much of a gimmicky joke. According to early reports, McMahon wants the league to be faster. He wants to reduce the game time from three-or-more hours to about two hours. How he plans to accomplish this is still not entirely known, but my guess would be that he could achieve it through a combination of shortening quarter lengths (to 10 or 12 minutes), reducing the play clock from 40 seconds (in the NFL) to 25 or 30 seconds (closer to NCAA rules), eliminating some clock stoppages (by not stopping the clock for incomplete passes, for instance), or by slowing down the game by making the rules favor running the ball rather than throwing the ball. This last one seems unlikely, as I'm sure McMahon wants the game to be more exciting, and most fans are not like me, and do not enjoy seeing long, methodical, ground-and-pound drives.

The new XFL will be devoid of some of the original's excess and theatrics.

McMahon will own and finance the league this time around, rather than the World Wrestling Federation (now the WWE). This new XFL is expected to eliminate a lot of the silly, pro-wrestling-inspired theatrics that plagued the original XFL and turned that league into a joke. Players with criminal records will not be allowed to play, and they won't be able to create silly names for the backs of their jerseys (no "He Hate Me" as a player name).

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Madden NFL - title

I think I've finally decided to take a stab at some long-form video analysis and critique on Youtube. My first go at this came in the form of a nearly-hour-long breakdown of my frustrations with the Madden NFL video game series (broken up into 2 parts). For the benefit of my readers, I'm also transcribing the video onto this blog post. Though reading this post will certainly convey all the same points that I make in the video, I still highly recommend watching the video, as the video footage included will do a better job than screenshots of demonstrating the problems I report. The entire video is embedded below.

If you want to see more (better-produced) video content like this from me, then I invite you to support me on Patreon.

Watch the full video on Youtube.

EA's ethos of releasing a new Madden entry every single year has become a tremendous detriment to the game as a whole. Modern games have become very large, very complicated, and very expensive to create, and every game series that has relied on an annual release cycle has, in my opinion, suffered for it. Even companies like Ubisoft have recognized this, which is why the company has decided to end the cycle of annual Assassin's Creed releases, opting instead for a major release every two or three years, with some large-scale DLC and expansions to fill out the intervening period. Despite re-using the same game engines, the huge cost of creating a new game every year stretches the company's resources further than they can go. Though I still didn't think that Assassin's Creed: Origins was particularly great, the game still clearly benefited from the extra design and development time that the year's hiatus provided, and the general internet consensus is that the game is very good.

Assassin's Creed: Odyssey was released only a year after Origins, and it looks like a terrible, derivative, waste of time fueled by a grindy micro-transaction economy pulled straight out of a mobile free-to-play game, except with a $60 upfront price tag. We'll have to wait and see if Ubisoft follows through on its promise to "spend more time making fewer, better games", or if it goes back to milking its franchises with slapped-together annual releases.

EA's Madden game is in an even worse boat than Assassin's Creed was in. Not only is Madden an annual release, but it's internal resources are being stretched out between multiple, completely divergent game modes! EA has to chose how much resources to devote to each of these modes, and that commitment comes at the expense of the other modes. In addition to having to make general gameplay improvements every year, the team is also tasked with coming up with new features and improvements for Franchise mode, Ultimate Team, and now Longshot. They're basically developing three different games, and trying to squeeze them all into a single annual release cycle.


Madden's resources are divided between three divergent game modes every year!

Worse yet, one of these game modes clearly makes a lot more money than the others...

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My expectations for the Chicago Bears' 2018 season was quite reserved after the team's decent preseason performances. The starters saw very little play time, so I didn't really know what to expect. My expectations rose a little bit after the Bears swindled Khalil Mack from the Raiders. At least the defense would probably be pretty good. I wasn't expecting the defense to be this good, however!

Khalil Mach has absolutely dominated in these early season games, recording at least one sack and a forced fumble in each of the first four games (as well as some fumble recoveries and an interception returned for a touchdown). This dominance wasn't quite enough to stop Aaron Rodgers from limping his way to a 20-point comeback victory in the second half. Rodgers left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury, but came back later after backup Deshaun Kizer proved to be completely ineffective.

Khalil Mack has been absolutely dominant, and is on pace to earn every penny of his contract!

Rodgers was clearly in pain, as he was forced to stand and hobble in the pocket, unable to put much weight on that injured leg. Yet the Bears didn't manage to get to him at all in the second half.

Put quite frankly, and bluntly, I am dumbfounded that Rodgers' career isn't over. That might sound heartless, but Rodgers did not need to come back into that game. He should not have come back in that condition. His coaches and trainers should not have let him, and the league should not have let him (considering all their BS talk about "player safety"). If he had suffered further injury (possibly season or career-ending), that would be entirely on him and the coaching / training staff!

Now I don't know if coach Nagy and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio dialed back the pressure (which it looked to me like they did), or if Rodgers' offensive line simply laid it all on the line to protect him (in which case, they all deserve awards!), but I would have been sending everything and the kitchen sink after Rodgers during that second half. I'd have been blitzing 6, 7, or even 8 guys every single play. No mercy. If Rodgers wanted to put himself at risk by coming back into the game with that injured leg (again, barely even able to stand on his own leg, let alone run on it), then I would have made him suffer for it.

If the NFL really cares about "player safety", then why did they not intervene
when the Packers put Aaron Rodgers back into the game?

I don't want to see anybody get hurt, but Rodgers was asking for it. Again, considering it's hard-line positions on player safety, I am absolutely amazed that the NFL allowed the Packers to play Rodgers, and that they didn't fine the Packers or Rodgers for that reckless behavior. This just goes to show how the NFL isn't really concerned with player safety, only with the bottom line, and Rodgers leading an epic come-back victory while hobbling around on one leg certainly made for prime viewing, and made that game into an all-time classic. The NFL will penalize and fine defenders for doing their jobs, but you'll let a cripple walk onto the field and put himself at risk? Shame on you, NFL!

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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