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The third (and presumably final) update for Madden 21's long-neglected franchise mode is finally live. Madden franchise players finally have the full Madden 21 franchise mode to play with -- in March ... a full month after the SuperBowl and the end of the NFL season. Obviously, this is too little, and too late for me to bother changing my review of Madden 21 or to change my mind about my long-standing frustration with the lack of attention that EA is paying to Madden's franchise mode.

This update will supplement some of the superficial changes made in the earlier updates with some slightly more substantive upgrades. On the superficial end of the spectrum, it adds a league history that tracks SuperBowl champions, seasonal awards, and other information from year-to-year. On the more substantive end of the spectrum, it also makes some long-overdue revisions to CPU teams' trade logic. CPU teams will supposedly be better at evaluating trade proposals, will value elite offensive linemen more highly, and can no longer be tricked into thinking that a reserve player is a starting-caliber talent simply by moving the player up on your depth chart.

Good thing I had already completed my trades for Quentin Nelson and Deshaun Watson to the Bears before this update went live; otherwise, I might not have been able to get either player -- let alone both. Not that it matters, I probably won't be putting much more time into Madden 21. I'll likely have to play a few more games to capture footage for the next installment(s) of my "How Madden Fails To Simulate Football" video series.

The only reason I would continue playing Madden 21 would be to capture footage
for my "How Madden Fails To Simulate Football" video series.

A good sign for the future of Franchise?

Madden's current executive producer, Seann Graddy went on YouTube to prior to the patch releasing to sing its praises as part of EA's continuing effort to provide lip service to Franchise players. In this video, he also gave Franchise players a sneak peak at what we can expect in next year's game. On Graddy's computer screen in the background, we can see a "Staff Management" screen showing the Chicago Bears' head coach, Matt Nagy, along with an offensive coordinator named Sam Norris, a defensive coordinator named Bill Lando, and a fourth slot that simply says "player personnel". This means that players should expect to see offensive and defensive coordinators return in Madden 22 -- something that has been sorely missing from the game since (I think) Madden 13.

EA's preview of the 3rd Franchise update for Madden 21 gives clues about what will be in Madden 22.

I don't recognize the names Sam Norris or Bill Lando. The Bears' current offensive and defensive coordinators are Bill Lazor and Sean Desai (respectively). Sam Norris and Bill Lando were not the names of previous coordinators either. I looked both names up on Google, and didn't find any results for Chicago Bears coaches. These are either place-holder names for a feature that is still a work-in-progress, or it is evidence that Madden 22 will not have real-life coordinator names.

It also looks like Madden 22 will only have offensive and defensive coordinators, unless other coaches are hidden behind the "player personnel" tab on the right. So we will apparently not be getting anything close to the full coaching staffs that have been available in Axis Football since 2019. This year's Axis Football 2020 not only includes offensive and defensive coordinators, but also special teams coordinators, regional scouts, and position coaches for every position group. It also includes facility upgrades, including stadium upgrades, injury and prevention and rehabilitation facilities, training facilities, and logistical infrastructure such as transportation and hotels. I don't expect we'll be seeing any of that in Madden anytime soon.

Axis Football 2020 includes special teams coordinators, regional scouts, and position group coaches.

So even with coordinators back in the mix, we'll likely still be seeing people saying that the indie Axis Football 2021 has a better franchise mode than Madden 22's.

Franchise mode as a service?

But for me, the real news regarding the future of Madden's franchise mode wasn't the reveal of the return of coordinators; it was Graddy's statement that "Franchise mode will continue to be a priority in Madden NFL 22 and beyond, including in our live service plan". What this tells me is that Franchise mode is going to be treated as a "live service" moving forward. "Live service" is a buzz word going around the industry the past year or so. It basically means that new content and features will be added to the game via period updates.

While this can sound like a good thing, in practice, it has often meant that full-price games get released as a "shell product" that is feature-incomplete and often also bug-riddled. Players often have to wait for months (sometimes even a full year or more) after launch before the game resembles what was promised in pre-release trailers and hype presentations. Popular recent examples include No Man's Sky and Fallout '76. And that's assuming that the game ever gets updates that make it worth playing post-launch. Look at the failures of games like Anthem, for which the promised "game-resurrecting" update has been canceled by EA.

The problem is even worse for annually-released game franchise, such as Madden. The developer work that goes into maintaining these live services takes resources and person-power away from working directly on next year's installment. This means that next year's installment doesn't feel like a year's worth of upgrades and improvements, and instead only feels like a patch to last year's game (a problem that Madden veterans are already very familiar with). Look at some of the worst Assassin's Creed releases for examples of this. The launch of Assassin's Creed: Unity comes to mind.

I fear that EA's upcoming college football game will be a similarly incomplete "live service".

In the end, this means that, despite Franchise being "a priority", Madden 22 won't be worth buying at (or around) launch for Franchise fans because it will likely still feel incomplete or half-assed. If the Franchise mode ever improves to the point that it feels wort playing, it likely won't be until November at the earliest -- at which point fans of teams like the Lions, Jaguars, Jets, and probably the Bears will already be checked out of the NFL season and won't care about playing Madden.

What's even worse is that we will likely see the same problems crop up in EA's upcoming college football game. It will probably also feel like a similarly incomplete game mode that will require several patches to work as promised. There's always the chance that EA will pleasantly surprise me, and maybe I'll also see pigs flying while I'm snowboarding in a cold day in hell.

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Comments (1) -

Patrick
Patrick
06/10/2021 07:14:28 #

I'm pretty sure Madden 22 will suck just like 21 the franchise is garbage the game play from all Madden sucks like it to fake the CPU never lose no matter what or how far they down they will always come back unless you super sim which is bogus also the all pro is terrible you can score almost a hundred points in that mode in general Madden has fallen off I believe that 2k is way better game with a real actual storyline Madden just makes up they stuff like fotf that mode so garbage from high school up until college where you chose either being a Star or 2 string to a inferior player Madden 22 I'd gonna suck ad well fire everyone and go with the 2k creators

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