Twin Cities Mad For Madden's Video Games

Terry Collins, Star Tribune
August 9, 2005 MADDEN0809

Wanna know how Craig Christianson was planning to spend the wee hours of his 25th birthday today?
By scouring a Twin Cities electronics store, starting at midnight, hoping to shell out $49.99 for "Madden NFL 2006," the football video game bearing the surname of iconic TV football analyst and former coach John Madden. The new version makes its debut today, and several stores were planning midnight rollouts for devotees.
Christianson, of Minneapolis, later planned to stop by his job for "a couple of hours" and then race home to practice for a marathon session against his buddies tonight. "I don't play any other video games, period," he said. "It's a good way to celebrate the b-day. Truly a gift from the Madden gods!"
The 18th version of the millions-selling football game hit stores today amid great expectations by its fans -- many of whom reserved their copy a year in advance.
"I hear it's going to be sweet," said Joe Lindquist, 22, of Brooklyn Park, who will take his chances and hopes to buy an unreserved copy. "Have you seen it yet?"
Madden's creator, Electronic Arts, which makes a number of other games and is the world's biggest video-game maker, also has a big stake. After a rival began selling its own sports titles at cut-rate prices last year, EA signed long-term licensing deals to give it exclusive rights to make NFL games and titles using the ESPN brand and logo.
The deals were reported to be $400 million for the NFL for five years and $800 million for ESPN for 15 years, according to a recent article in the New York Times.
Christianson said he's been playing Madden since he was 13. He's noticed the advances over the years and says that, in a weird way, the game teaches business skills.
"Clearly there's an emphasis on how you set up your franchise," said Christianson, a human resources supervisor for a downtown Minneapolis investment firm. "That forces you to manage, organize and stay within budget. It's the closest thing to owning a team."
Andy McNamara, editor of the Minneapolis-based Game Informer magazine, said the most significant feature in this year's version of Madden is the "QB vision," in which a slice of the field lights up to give the quarterback better vision and throwing precision when making a pass. Players manipulate a white cone representing the quarterback's field of vision, he said.
Andy Reiner, Game Informer's executive editor, said he was impressed with the game's new Superstar mode, which allows players to create an NFLer and even fire his agent. McNamara said he also likes the Superstar mode, which also follows players' off-the-field activities, including landing possible movie roles.
"The riches, the nice cars," Christianson said. "Yeah, I'm ready for that."

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