This year’s edition of EA’s football sim, Madden NFL 21, launched on Friday. As fans settled down over the weekend to experience everything the new game had to offer, they quickly realized that despite some hotly touted new features, modes, and mechanics, the game doesn’t live up to the accompanying big-budget marketing campaign.
The backlash has been so severe it has spawned its very own hashtag on Twitter calling for the NFL to ax EA’s exclusive license , with fans unconvinced the powerhouse publisher can do the football institution’s name justice any longer.
Sustained posts from fans catapulted #NFLdropEA into the trending list yesterday, detailing many of the gripes players have with the newly-launched game. The hashtag leads to a raft of clips, images, and memes, illustrating a litany of bugs and issues.
A change.org petition surfaced a few hours back , similarly calling for the NFL to cancel the licensing agreement with EA. It has currently amassed just shy of 1,200 signatures.
A middling critical response from the gaming press foreshadowed the negative reaction to some extent. Over on review score aggregator Metacritic, NFL Madden 21 is nursing a 64/100 score for the PS4 version , and similarly mediocre 69/100 for the Xbox One version .
The user score fares worse, gravitating between 0.4 and 0.6 depending on the version, bearing the full brunt of a targeted review bombing. NFL Madden 21 now sits among the worse user scored games on the website, bumping shoulders with the likes of Warcraft III: Reforged at 0.6 , and Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: Warlords of New York at 0.4 .
“While the gameplay is in as good of a spot as it’s been for a while, Madden 21 is dragged down but neglected features, stagnant and/or underdeveloped concepts. Hopefully, this inconsistent effort is a product of the development team packing tons into the next-gen version. If not, all things considered, from a reception standpoint, this could be one of the worst years in franchise history.”
While it’s difficult to ascertain the impact the hashtag may have, the value of the Madden NFL IP in EA’s sports portfolio allied to impressive year-on-year sales could see the publisher quietly sweep the issue under the carpet if at all possible.
Earlier this year, the NFL announced an extension to the licensing deal with EA running through 2026. Estimates reckon EA forked out a staggering $1.5 billion to secure the NFL’s blessing, which slims down the chances of the NFL reversing the deal due to the hefty financial implications.
The only conceivable scenario where we may see an official response is if the NFL deems the response too damaging to its carefully curated image. But, as always, these vocal backlashes tend to represent a minority of players rather than echo the overwhelming majority’s sentiments. The hashtag steadily losing steam suggests EA is on track to get away with yet another underwhelming sports game.