Amid the explosive success of the Wii, sport and activity titles have been stellar performers on the platform -- Wii Sports
has sold more than 45 million units globally over its lifetime -- and still going, while Wii Sports Resort
has already hit 1 million units in three separate territories over its first month.
But core sports titles have historically struggled to find traction on Wii, widely seen as a casual and family-friendly platform. The Madden
franchise, perhaps the most widely-known and successful of these, has historically been much more closely associated with the Xbox and PlayStation platforms in recent years.
Last year, EA Sports label head Peter Moore was candid about Madden
's Wii difficulties in previous years -- "We didn't get off on the best foot with the Wii with our authentic, simulative products," he said in November 2008
. "In our first year, our results were probably best described as miserable. But we've made huge progress."
In 2008, part of the renewed Wii design focus was a special, widely-touted "All-Play" edition particular to the Wii version of Madden
, as EA hoped a customized set of controls for the platform's audience would drive adoption of the franchise among the Wii's explosive userbase.
But while the Xbox 360, PS3 and PS2 versions of Madden 09
combined to sell more than 2 million copies in August 2008 alone, the "All-Play"-branded Wii version sold just 100,000 units in the same period.
This year, EA as a whole seems to be gaining ground on the Wii, thanks to the success of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09
and EA Sports Active
. As the company hopes to make progress with the recently-released Madden 10
on Wii this year, what lessons have been learned?
"We are constantly researching what our consumers think of our games and make big efforts to see the results of those learnings go into our game as soon as possible," franchise marketing director Nathan Stewart tells Gamasutra. "With the Wii, I don’t think anyone really had their head wrapped around how big a success it would be or how fun the motion-based controls were."
Continual focus testing is a major part of ensuring that Madden
is tailored to the Wii user and "resonates" with them, Stewart says. He says EA Sports is well aware that consumers might have associated Madden
with other platforms in the past.
"With the huge popularity of the Wii, it only makes sense that a lot of those people used to own a PS2 or Xbox and have probably played Madden NFL
on one of those systems in the past," says Stewart. "The real key for us was to make a game that is authentic football like they remember, and fun on the new controls."
But that "All-Play" tag, so conspicuous in 2008, is conspicuously absent in 2009 -- why? "All-Play wasn’t just a moniker -- it was a philosophy of making the game more accessible to all players," Nathan Stewart, the franchise's marketing director, tells us. "The moniker may not appear on our box anymore, but the philosophy is alive and well in our product."
"We took it off the box, and made sure that the whole development team knew that All-Play isn’t a mode in Madden NFL 10 -- it had to be everywhere in the game," says Stewart. "Making the game accessible for all of our fans in all of our game modes is a big key. We downplayed it on the box this year, but dialed it up in the game design."
Matt Read is a designer specifically for the Wii version of Madden 10
, and he explains his focus from that standpoint: "From a design standpoint, it’s important to understand the audience, the hardware, and what players expect from a Wii game," he says. Development focused on making the game "unique" to the Wii's controls.
"For example, we took Madden
fundamentals like passing, and investigated different mechanics that leveraged the Wii’s pointer capabilities," Read says. "In the end we created a new system, 'Point N’ Pass', that provided players a 'that’s the way it should be' feeling when playing Madden
on the Wii."
This is a strong general example of how EA Sports is tackling the Wii, says Read. "All different classifications of players play Wii games, and the aspect they all have in common is their expectation of a Wii game," he says. "Players expect the game to take advantage of the Wii Controller, have a streamlined experience, and support multiplayer or 'living room' modes. And this is what we based our design philosophies around."
Madden NFL 10
marks the fourth installment of the series on the Wii, and it's actually sports hub EA Tiburon's first. "EA Canada previously released the title and was a big help in this year’s development," says Read. "It was a culmination of their knowledge and the Madden
knowledge inherent to this studio that helped us create such a great product."
"As an industry, third party developers are really starting to understand the Wii player and are refining what works and what doesn’t," he adds. "As our understanding grows and our ability to develop towards that Wii mentality grows, you’ll see more great games like Madden NFL 10