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NFL lockout could mean big losses for Madden

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Madden could lose millions

There are still a lot of looming questions about the 2011-2012 NFL season - most notably, will there be one? Now that uncertainty is starting to seep into the video game world.

Electronic Arts has already made it very clear: No matter what happens between the players and owners, there will be a new Madden game in stores this August. But if the season is substantially shortened or cancelled altogether, it could have a devastating impact on the game's success.

Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities says he expects sales of Madden will be down 50 percent if the season is cancelled completely, but will see no negative effects if the season starts within two or three weeks of its normal start time.

"I would bet anything that we have a season -- or at worst, we lose a month or so," Pachter told Yahoo! Games. "Some people will be pissed, but they won't be pissed at EA. ... EA is going to survive and thrive. It will do well if there's a season. It will do less well if there's not."

While EA depends heavily on Madden as part of its annual income, the company has been pushing hard to widen its footprint in recent years. It now is one of the largest publishers on Apple's iPhone and iPad, it has successfully experimented with the free-to-play business model with Battlefront Heroes, and later this year it will launch one of the industry's most-anticipated massively multiplayer games in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Some gamers are hoping that an abbreviated or cancelled season might prompt EA to lower the price of Madden, but that's unlikely. Because it has an exclusivity clause with the NFL, EA has to give a portion of each sale to the league and the Player's Association (though both reportedly have agreed to a lower amount for Madden 2012 due to the labor issues). There are also console and retailer royalties that factor into the cost.

To keep people focused on the game instead of the lockout, EA says it will reveal information about the 2012 cover athlete later this month. The company is also about to launch a new Madden title built specifically for Nintendo's 3DS handheld.


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