Gameday 99. The game that evolved my love for what would become two of my greatest passions, football and video games.
I remember the year, 1998, one night over my neighbour’s house. I remember seeing all the guys surrounding the good ole tube. “You wanna play?” said my buddy Carlos. “Ok” I responded nervously.
I picked up that legendary PS1 controller, with no dual shock, and proceeded to select my team. Being a huge Miami Dolphins fan, the choice was easy. I remember the game loading and seeing these amazing graphics pop up (in reality, they were trash). So much was learned the next few minutes. Football is not just a barbaric sport with modern day gladiators just looking to annihilate each other. Yet it was designed plays and schemes created to try and exploit a weakness against your adversary’s scheme. It was like playing chess but instead of using knights and bishops, I would control quarterbacks and linebackers.
Instantly I was hooked. My skills grew faster and although I would never be a competitive gamer in football games, I’m proud to say I was never an easy win either. For the next few years, football and video games would be my new hobby.
With this new found infatuation with football games, I quickly noticed that Gameday 99 wasn’t the only football game in the market. As a matter of fact, the NFL football video game industry may have been oversaturated at the moment. In just a few years we had too many to remember, NFL quarterback club, NFL Fever, NFL Blitz, NFL Extreme, NFL 2K, and of course, the mother of all NFL games, MADDEN.
Now I must admit, at first Madden didn’t feel right. Gameday had that arcade feel to it which I loved. Madden, on the other hand, felt different, it felt real. After playing Madden for more than 5 minutes, the realism was too good to go back to its rival. Madden had me locked in.
With the release of the PS2 came the Madden that basically put all football games to rest, Madden 2001. Eddie George was the cover athlete and that game was off the chain. Graphics were incredible, the movements were insane, the gameplay was jaw-dropping. I had to wait a few years to get my PS2 because my father wasn’t made of money and he would remind me of that everytime I asked. Thankfully I had great friends who shared and we would battle it out.
While Madden was dominating its respected genre, a low key game from Sega began to make noise. The NFL 2k series became a threat. Now mind you, the Dreamcast was released before the PS2 was, and Sega really made a great console. Unfortunately, it was way ahead of its time and sales dwindled, therefore Dreamcast eventually went away. During the era of Dreamcast, 2K really made a great game. So great that after the release of ESPN NFL 2K5, EA purchased the official rights to make officially licensed NFL video games. So what many experts predicted to be the real Madden killer, the slayer of EA’s football run, was killed in its track.
With EA’s power move, all football fans were forced to play Madden. Yes, 2K tried releasing another football title but it was a tragedy of a game. EA made decent products for the next few years but going into the next gen consoles, (PS3, XB360) the product began to get boring. EA needed a new way to keep the fans entertained and to keep them spending those dollar$. What came next would revolutionize the Madden community. Through a downloadable patch in Madden 10 and an official game mode in Madden 11, EA opened the new online casino known as Madden Ultimate Team, or MUT.
Now I will admit, I didn’t play MUT till Madden 25 (2014). I may have played a few games in previous titles but only with 25, I got hooked. At first, you would buy a few packs (loot crates), then you would play some challenges (solos) to unlock more packs and sometimes exclusive players. Admittedly I’ve never been a master gamer in any genre, I’m what you would call a casual gamer, so it was no surprise that all I had time for was MUT as far as gaming was concerned. I was really hooked. It felt like Gameday 99 all over again. I would spend hours and hours grinding solos, playing h2h, going through the auction house to see if I could find a card cheap enough to resell for a profit (sniping). I just couldn’t get enough.
Fast forward to 2018, the game is Madden 19. MUT is the only way to be competitive or even relevant when it comes to Madden. I feel I’m a seasoned veteran in the game mode. I begin my MUT season as I have for the past 4 years. I have EA ACCESS so I get my game almost a week early with 10 hours of gameplay. I grind my solos, I play my h2h, I spent a little extra money on packs, I open on my presale bonus content, I’m trying to meet all the milestones so I can unlock free content. Hell, I even started my own YouTube channel playing and streaming gameplay (talkovergaming). One day it just snapped, like Thanos snapping his finger with the infinity gauntlet, my love for Madden was killed, turned to ashes.
“What happened David? Why are you not playing MUT anymore?” my friends would ask (Shoutout to my biggest and only 2 fans on YouTube, T and E). Simply put, Madden has a community and this community says the same thing year in and year out. Madden is broken. The game is a rinse and repeat with roster updates and a few graphic upgrades here and there year after year. Yet every year we reward EA for putting subpar broken product out and making it worse with patches. Now I will give credit where it is due, Madden 19 is a good game, MUT is where my complaints go towards. You see, earlier I said EA opened a casino and that’s what I feel MUT is. I can give EA $20 in hopes of hitting the jackpot and pulling a rare card same way I can go to my local casino and put $20 in a slot hoping I win $1000.
“Dave, you sound bitter and jealous that either you’re not good enough or just don’t have the time to play, stop hating.” Maybe so, but MUT killed Madden for a little over a month ago. My mother had surgery, she stayed with me during recovery so I decided to take the week off work to care for her. During this time, I put in HOURS UPON HOURS to grind out a 92 Stephon Gilmore. I did it. When I got him I felt as if I had the team to beat. Funny thing is my team was still mediocre and even funnier is I actually won my first and only h2h SuperBowl after I acquired him. Was I happy? Yeah, but something didn’t feel right. I’ve won super bowls before but this one felt odd, it felt flat. I got nice rewards for winning but I wasn’t satisfied anymore.
The game was boring. Everyone runs the same scheme, same cheese play, same nano blitz. Everyone buys their team, so in a way, MUT is still pay to win if you want to be competitive and not invest all your free time grinding solos, sniping the auction house and playing h2h season. And even if you have a god squad, it usually comes down on who can “scheme” (cheese) the opponent better. It’s far from football, hell, it’s far from Madden… It’s MUT.
It’s funny; EA paid to renew the exclusive rights to make NFL video games. With that, EA has killed any competitor’s chance of entering the market.