The release of this year's Madden
title will come on August 30, slightly later than expected, "to align closer to the start of the NFL regular season," according to a tweet
from EA Sports PR rep Rob Semsey.
The announcement comes as NFL team owners and players inch towards arbitration to settle a contract dispute that could delay or cancel the professional season, which is officially set to start September 8.
EA has long-promised to bring out a Madden NFL
title this year regardless of the status of any NFL lockout, though the threat of a delayed or cancelled season reportedly won EA reduced licensing fees
from the NFL.
titles have come out in the first half of August, during pre-season NFL play that precedes an early September start to the official league schedule. A later release this year could allow EA more time to adjust team rosters thrown into flux by a delayed free agency period, and cushion the marketing impact of any delay in the pro season's planned start.
In an early February conference call, EA CEO John Riccitiello said
the company had "baked in the most conservative assumption, meaning no [NFL] season," when planning for the financial impact of any contract dispute. "We're optimistic it can be better than that, so there's an upside," he said at the time.
EA expanded a fan-voting program
to select the Madden
cover athlete this year, pitting selected players from all 32 NFL teams in a single-elimination bracket.
Operation Sports' Chase Becotte cites Semsey in reporting
that the August 30 release date is effective for future annual Madden
releases as well.]