I talked about Madden 06 and NCAA Football 06 at the tail of my last update. As I sit here I realize it is kind of sad that I will end up double dipping on Madden (Xbox and Xbox 360 version), but that's what happens when a new system shows up. I've been hearing rumors that stuff will be cut out of the EA Sports Xbox 360 releases in order to get them available at launch...that may keep me away for this year on the 360 side. Things don't look so good if you have to drop features in order to get a product ready for release.
Unlike my friend Bill Hunt (Dubious Quality) I'm not as into the EA bashing. I've been playing EA Sports games since they started coming out on the Genesis and haven't really had a problem with them over the years. Yes, EA is a massive company, but I think they bring out a lot of great products and let developers do what they do (The Battlefield series (minus Vietnam), The Sims series, Criterion Games (Burnout), some of the Bond games, etc.), but also realize they bring out crap or put developers into the grave (Bond: Rogue Agent, Catwoman, Westwood (Command and Conquer, etc.).
I'm even one of those people that think Madden NFL 2005 (my review) was better than ESPN NFL 2K5 (CG writer Keith's review) last year. Yes, the graphics were better on ESPN NFL 2K5, but I've never been one for the playbook style of the 2K games (I've played them all since it released on the Dreamcast, so I'm not a "Johnny come lately" on this) and the overall gameplay mechanics were just not as smooth as Madden in my opinion. Other people have other opinions and I respect that. Both games were strong in different areas and many people feel ESPN NFL 2K5 was the better overall game; I just disagree.
Of course, this year we don't really have anything to argue about since EA now owns the NFL rights. Many love to point their barbs at EA in this case, but to be honest it was the NFL that was looking for someone to get exclusive rights to the NFL license; EA just happened to be the highest bidder. This is no surprise of course given that Madden is a multi-million unit seller for EA, but last year EA had a weak year for Madden thanks to NFL 2K5 going for $20. It really ate into the units sold and it will be interesting to see if people come back to the EA fold or not now that they are the only game in town. I'm thinking they will, but I have been known to be wrong before.
NCAA Football 2005 was a bit weak last year, the game didn't run nearly as smoothly as it did the year before on the Xbox. I also certainly hope EA has plans to broaden the Xbox Live game options, such as setting up seasons in both this game and Madden. I hope they make NCAA 06 as good as it was in years past because it is a great compliment to Madden and it sounds like this year you can hone in more on the players and groom them for drafting into Madden...that sounds pretty cool.
I can't wait to see the sales numbers to see if EA will be hurt in any way by being the exclusive holders of the NFL/NFLPA license. The same holds true for 2K Sports when they release the only 3rd party baseball game next year.