Madden ’07

The football season ends. Strikes happen. And there are weekdays. For this, God created video games. And last August he did good. That’s when video game giant EA Sports released Madden ‘07, the latest installment to the suddenly venerable football game franchise.

With its technical sophistication, array of camera angles and dense playbook, there’s a serious argument to be made—and Slate makes it—that Madden ‘07’s can better illustrate football’s beauty than, well, football. But when Madden began it was humbler beast. Here’s a breakdown of the evolution of Madden football. Over the years the strategy-driven game has earned legions of loyal followers. But with devotion, come expectations and grumbles about any so-called improvements.

For those that have been asleep or at the theatre for the last five years, video games are big business. The industry generates an estimated $7 billion annually. (There’s an online course on video game economics based on a Cambridge UP book.) Madden does more than its share to boost the annual revenues. In the first week, ‘07 sold two million units, generating almost $100 million in sales. That was enough to drive monthly sales of similar games up 17 percent across the board.

Before the official release, gamers could shell out $19.95 for a pay-per-view preview of hot-shot gamers putting the new edition through its paces. If you missed it—and The Spectator hopes you did—here’s an overall guide. A mobile mini-industry now follows the Madden game from season to season. They offer to stuff your e-mail box with tips, catalog virtual film so you can scout other gamers, or to catalogue everything in the game. There are enough strategies to make a coach’s eyes cross. Tight end questions? They got it. Decision making in the passing game? Check. Bringing the blitz? No problem.

A video game might not seem worthy of all this, but think of the possibilities. Could Bart Starr’s Packers have beaten Terry Bradshaw’s Steelers? Would a tactician like Bill Belichick crumble against a hard-nosed, competitor such as Otto Graham? And what about O.J. v. Ditka. With video games, we can find out.

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