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Madden NFL 13 jukes its way to record sales

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This year's Madden is showing some serious MVP potential.

The latest installment of the venerable sports franchise is breaking records left and right -- a victory for EA, which gambled with major gameplay changes this year.

The game set Day One sales records for the franchise on current-gen consoles, but went even bigger in its first week with over 1.65 million units sold on the Xbox 360 and PS3. That's an 8 percent jump over last year's game.

Fans are playing the game actively as well. EA reports a 31 percent increase in the number of online games played during the first week, with more than 24 million games played out on the virtual gridiron.

Put another way, in just seven days, people have played the equivalent of 47,000 NFL seasons. On Labor Day alone, they started an average of 3,000 games per minute.

Fans are certainly gravitating to the game's online component. All totaled, over 1.4 million people have connected online.

Critics have been largely enthusiastic about this year's Madden. The game currently has a Metacritic rating of 82 -- and reviews have been fairly glowing.

This year's entry received plenty of tweaks, the biggest being a new, realistic physics engine. After honing the game's graphics for years, developer Tiburon this year decided to focus on hit detection. Players rebound off one another more realistically than in games past.

In fact, about the only person who's not happy with this year's game seems to be New York Giants defensive tackle Marcus Thomas (and rightfully so).

The Madden franchise is not only important to EA's bottom line, it's a starting whistle of sorts for the game industry. Each year's release marks the unofficial end of the summer game drought and signals the beginning of the holiday season game rush.

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