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Is EA the next victim of the Madden Curse?

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Trouble brewing for Madden

It's too early to know whether the infamous Madden Curse will hit this year's cover athlete, but if the wave of recent troubles related to the football franchise is any indication, the hex might be working its mojo on Electronic Arts itself.

Already concerned with how the seemingly unavoidable lockout of the real NFL season will affect sales of the upcoming Madden 12, the company has seen a number of key personnel depart Madden maker EA Tiburon in the past few days, which raises some questions about what fans can expect in 2013.

Ian Cummings, creative director of the Madden series, announced his departure via a recent blog post, ending an 11-year tenure with the company.

In the post, he only noted plans to "seek opportunities elsewhere," but it appears he'll be joining a number of other team members who have opted for free agency and launched their own development studio.

Row Sham Bow, as it's called, will include Cummings, former EA Sports chief technical officer Richard Wifall and former EA Tiburon general manager Philip Holt. The new company will be based in Winter Park, Fla. and expects to create some 60 new jobs.

The departures likely won't have a notable impact on this year's Madden, as that title is far enough in the development process that it's mostly just being polished up for its August release. But the talent loss could have more noticeable effects in Madden 13.

EA certainly has its hands full trying to protect its star franchise from other potential pitfalls. Earlier this month, the company found itself further on the defensive after a federal judge certified a class action suit over the Madden series, which accused the company of overcharging customers and stifling competition over the past six years. As if that weren't enough, the co-creator of the Madden series itself decided to litigate by filing a multi-billion dollar lawsuit over past royalties.

Even animal rights group PETA is hopping on the Madden bashing bandwagon, teeing off on EA for considering Michael Vick as the cover athlete of this year's game (he's now one of two finalists for the honor.) For what it's worth, EA says the two suits are without merit and notes that Vick has "served his time" for his participation in an interstate dog fighting ring.

Unrelated to the departures, this year's Madden will also be hitting shelves later than it has for the past 22 years. Earlier this month, EA shifted the game from its traditional mid-August debut to Aug. 30. The company says this will be a permanent move to better align with the launch of the NFL regular season.

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