I am sympathetic to the pressure of making Madden games. The creators of the football franchise are dually burdened by reality and expectations. Fans demand an increasingly lifelike simulation of professional football, while also wanting each entry to be garnished with uniqueness, though no one game should be so new and interesting that its changes devalue the players’ skills, honed over decades of gradual updates.
The results: each Madden features a handful of improvements, with the occasional dipping of a toe into a bigger theory of design, testing the waters of fandom to see if it’s worth gradually stepping all the way in. And each Madden nets criticism for not doing enough, or sometimes for doing too much. For these reasons, the people who promote Madden must constantly find ways to decorate the rigid, iterative series so that it appears new and fresh and also like more of the familiar, comforting stuff fans love.
The marketers are, to say the very least, excellent at their job.
“Start Me” is a parody of “Sorry” by Justin Bieber, though it also reminds me of underrated Michael Keaton comedy Multiplicity. Multiple clones of Super Bowl 50 MVP, Dancing with the Stars contestant, and Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller enumerates the number of reasons you should start him on your fictional Madden team. “Stop all players just using my body,” sings Miller, “Just start me, just start me.”
Last year, we saw Madden: The Movie, starring everyone from Dave Franco, Rex Ryan, Antonio Brown, and plenty of other actors, athletes, and hybrid football weapons:
In 2014, we got the rivalry of Dave Franco and Kevin Heart.
Madden 25 was promoted with this nugget of promotional gold:
The commercials don’t make many big promises about the games themselves. If anything, they focus on real-world celebrities having a good time with the latest and greatest entry. That’s really what the ads are selling.
“This is Madden,” they say. “You love buying this game every year, and hey, that opportunity has come again.”
Madden ads: the video game equivalent of a Google Calendar reminder — just far flashier.
And here’s a reminder that our sister-site Polygon is the best place to read about each new entry. They have, in Samit Sarkar and Owen Good, two of my favorite reporters in the sports games beat. Both also appear in the sports games podcast, Press Row.