NEW YORK — Did you know "Madden NFL 08" came out Tuesday (August 14)? Anyone who walked through Times Square on Monday night couldn't avoid that fact, as game publisher Electronic Arts and Microsoft hosted a massive launch party that made the debut of the world's top-selling football game one of the glitziest in history.
The so-called "Maddenoliday" turned the crossroads of the world into a "Madden" block party. Almost no Times Square landmark was left out of the bash:
· The Times Square Toys "R" Us, a store big enough to house a Ferris wheel, bore three-story-tall images of the "Madden 08" box art.
· Times Square's Military Island, a divider the splits Broadway and 7th Avenue right below where the New Year's Eve Ball drops, was cordoned off with "Madden" signs and a platform upon which celebrities could mug for gathering crowds.
· The facade for the Square's Hard Rock Cafe was turned into a stage for Ozzy Osbourne, who jammed through a few songs including his "Madden" track, "I Don't Wanna Stop" (see "Timberlake/Timbaland, QOTSA, Swizz, Daddy Yankee Rock 'Madden 08' Soundtrack").
· The ABC news ticker became a "Madden" ticker.
· The 22-story-tall sign on the corner of the Reuters building became the digital pathway for the "Madden 08" box art to descend at midnight, in an homage to the dropping of the New Year's Eve Ball.
But what exactly was being celebrated? A few of the people who showed up had something to say about that:
· Osbourne: " 'Madden 08' on Xbox 360 really rocks."
· Former NFL great Eric Young: "The 'Madden 08' on Xbox 360 is so realistic, it's kind of scary."
· Twenty-year-old Marcus Williams from Detroit, who bought one of the first copies of the game: "I can't wait to go home and play it on my Xbox 360 Elite."
Notice a pattern in those testimonials? See, EA and Microsoft armed the Times Square crowd with knowledge that "Madden" was coming out for the Xbox 360, but they didn't rush to remind them that the game is also being released on seven other platforms this week: DS, PC, PS2, PS3, PSP and Wii.
Microsoft and EA have trumpeted their partnership in "Madden" this year. That partnership may have been born in a marketing meeting, but it actually has some relevance to owners of multiple consoles. This year's "Madden" on the 360 is actually programmed to run with a smoother frame rate than it is on the only other similarly powered home-gaming console, the PS3. Reviewer estimates clock the 360 version running closer to a silky-smooth 60 frames per second, and the PS3 closer to 30. (A video comparison at the 2:20 mark of this video at GameVideos.com demonstrates the difference.)
The Wii version of "Madden" is even more distinct. It supports a "Family Play" mode that allows users to control the game with the Wii remote only, simplifying the passing, running and tackling controls to a few flicks of the wrist, while the Wii itself takes care of most of the virtual football players' movements.
"Madden" has been the undisputed king of football games since December 2004, when the company secured a five-year exclusive license with the NFL. The series' only pigskin competition has been Midway's dark-side-of-football "Blitz: The League" and July's "All-Pro Football 2K8," which stars former NFL greats and was developed by Visual Concepts, the longtime rival studio of the "Madden" series. The second-best-selling football game each of the last few years has actually been EA's "NCAA Football" series, which releases annually in July.
Be sure to check out Multiplayer, which will feature a new vs.-mode debate between MTV News and Newsweek's N'Gai Croal on the resurgence of small games like "Super Stardust HD" and "Geometry Wars," and what they mean for the big games.