SBJ/August 14 - 20, 2006/This Weeks News

EA goes all out for Madden debut

EA’s promotion of Madden NFL 07 includes a
new holiday for gamers’ calendars.
Madden NFL 07, the latest installment of Electronic Arts’ venerable video game franchise, was born out of the company’s development studios in Orlando and corporate headquarters in Redwood City, Calif. But it’s hitting the streets with a full-throttle, Hollywood-style marketing campaign.

Befitting the rise of video games into the true mainstream of popular culture, as well as highlighting EA’s need for a bona fide sales hit, Madden 07’s Aug. 22 release will arrive with a $10 million marketing campaign that features new deals with Topps and Snickers, and expanded relationships with ESPN and MTV.

Among the key marketing elements: the creation of a set of 20 Madden cards that will be randomly inserted in packs of the standard NFL set and depict the game’s graphics, the coining of a new promotional tag “Madden-oliday” to denote the release day, a Madden-dedicated magazine from Beckett Media, an extensive series of feature and making-of specials on ESPN, MTV, the NFL Network and Fox Sports Net, and the staging of a promotional event in tiny Madden, Miss., (population 74) in which Microsoft will give Xbox 360 consoles to everyone in town.

“We’re now very theatrically driven when it comes to the release of our games,” said Christopher Erb, EA director of marketing. “We’re opening, so to speak, in more than 6,000 stores, and we’re doing everything we can do make this a true happening.”

Last year’s version of the game, Madden NFL 06, sold 1.7 million units in the first week of release and more than 6 million overall. Those first-week sales translated to more than $85 million in gross revenue, a blockbuster opening in Hollywood terms, but EA officials are aiming to beat those figures.

“We certainly want to not only improve the quality of the game, but blow this out to new levels [commercially],” Erb said.

But that won’t be easy. The entire video game industry continues to undergo a bumpy console transition period, in which Microsoft continues to await full distribution for the Xbox 360, and Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii will not hit the market until later this year.

The parade of promotion reaches into making-of
specials and collectors cards.
The issue that has helped depress EA stock and prompt fiscal losses in three of its last five quarters. As a result, industry analysts expect EA to face some sales challenges with the new Madden game, even as it will likely end up as one of the year’s top-selling titles.

“I think it’s going to be a bit of a difficult launch,” said Edward Williams, interactive entertainment analyst for BMO Capital Markets. “The anecdotal [sales] data coming in does look positive — if you talk to retailers, a lot of the pre-order volume is very good compared to last year. But the issue is going to be with [the original] Xbox. You’ll obviously see a big ramp-up in what they sell for Xbox 360, but the question is whether that will be able to compensate for what they lose on the legacy systems.”

A pay-per-view special from ESPN Original Entertainment that costs $19.99 debuted Aug. 4, and ESPN is pledging more Madden-themed programming as a 15-year, ESPN-EA partnership signed last year takes hold.

“There really isn’t a time anymore when we’re not having the conversation about how to do more around the video game space,” said Geoff Reiss, ESPN Original Entertainment senior vice president. “We have critical mass among the audience now. So it’s now sort of like the earlier days of poker. We’ll try a bunch of things, keep the stuff that works and tweak the things that could be better.”

Return to top

Related Topics:

This Week's News

Video Powered By - Castfire CMS Powered By - Sitecore

Report a Bug