In the US, there are cheers from around the country. The latest Madden has been released. If American Football games aren’t your cup of tea, then maybe it’s the latest edition of NASCAR. Often that results in a disinterested grudge from us Brits. The last US-sport game I played was Madden on the Mega Drive. It kept me interested, but purely because pocket money was short and review samples a distant dream. With a copy of NASCAR 09 to review, tentative steps were taken. Those apprehensions were not unfounded.
Realistically there’s nothing majorly wrong with the game and ‘review-language’ will be kept to a minimum. Even so, the article stems from playing the game, so subjective views are necessary. I’m not speaking for the whole of the British Isles, as obviously NASCAR’s release over here must mean people buy it, but I’m bemused as to why the sport is considered sponsorship worthy. In reality, the drivers are extremely skilled, with perception and concentration being graded an A. In the game, a form where you’re supposed to be mentally stimulated, (otherwise we’d be better off watching the non-interactive television), nothing is further from the truth. Driving around and around and around in circles, following the same racing-line seems akin to being stuck in a jam on the dreaded M25. It’s hardly exhilarating. Maybe it’s my age, or the time I’ve been gaming, but racing titles are supposed to be challenging, keeping you on your toes, ala Grid. Forza, PGR and Dirt all have corners that change direction. Watching your car trail-blaze in circles is the same as watching your washing machine spin.
Enough of personal game-bashing and to where the real argument lies. I presume that I’m not alone in my viewpoint, especially when you go on the UK CHART TRACK website. I’ve never seen NASCAR in a worthy chart position. You’d expect it to be, judging by the rest of EA’s ‘yearly-update’ franchises that consistently sell strong. Are EA simply shipping units for the sake of business, or do they actually believe that localised sports sell well abroad.
Take the FIFA series (or Pro Evolution if that’s your port of call for your football fix) as an example. It’d be interesting as to how many US readers actually pick up copies. Elsewhere in the world, they rank as some of the highest selling series’ of all time. I doubt they even make it to shelves in your local Walmart, EB or Best Buy (if I’m correct with naming US chains). They obviously do, because as a rule, publishes attempt to eke out every last drop of possible money. As far as I’m aware though, Football is slowly growing. That loose statement is down to the last World Cup where USA actually did well. Of course, there’s also the fact that David Beckham moved to LA Galaxy to cash in on millions, cough, sorry, to spread the game.
If we turn the tables, it’s hard to see US sports growing. They’ll always be shown on TV, but at 1am when the general population is in bed. There’s no way in hell that Madden would out-sell FIFA (not that its suggested that the reverse would realistically occur). The reason? EA don’t want it to.
Video games have an awe-inspiring amount of influence. They’re the modern novels, a cultural form that encompasses the globe. There’s no indication of profits slowing down and as the casual revolution sweeps certain demographic populations, neither is the actual game-playing-public number. Gaming is akin to the effect the novel had on British Imperial rule. From it, comes a catch 22 situation. If EA were to market US-centric sport titles intelligently, rather than just pumping out copies yearly, you’d see an increased interest. If they got hold of their developers and told them “make this European friendly”, thus bringing in tutorials and an easier learning curve then consumers’ ears may prick up. I stopped playing Madden because punting balls (the only move I could figure out) continually was eventually monotonous. Being told how to utilise offence and defence might have changed my interests when I was young, therefore elongating my purchasing power.
Another result would be a natural increase in the sport’s interest, which in turn would generate more need for the games, consequently earning more money. We’re sitting on the precipice. An involved development policy could see a 20-year shift in gaming loyalties. Rugby games are atrocious, but the glitz and glam of American football (sorry, I couldn’t take it anymore), appeal to anyone with magpie-like consciousnesses, which is all of us no matter how hard we try and hide it. Madden could easily kill off the official Rugby titles, claiming the crown of oddly shaped ball games.
If American football was explained, (much like the offside rule in football and why even if it ends 0-0, it can still be a fantastic spectacle) I’m sure it would have a better up taking. EA just have to get their thinking hats in order. It’s another example of how the gaming corporations are overly business orientated. Obviously, video gaming has changed since the early days of creativity and substance. That’s not a suggestion of policy change. Big budgets mean big games. More focus would increase sales. They’re not marketing a static product like a TV, but an interactive, entertainment device. It would be beneficial for gamers, the publishers and the sport. Brainstorms are needed, boardroom meetings constructed. They’ve done a great job on FIFA these past few years; maybe it’s time they broadened their horizons. Beneficial to all, it’s needed to stem the generic ‘cloneisms’ we’re treated to.