Aug 24, 2023 - Technology

Fewer game critics have reviewed this year's Madden

Data: OpenCritic; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: OpenCritic; Chart: Axios Visuals

Electronic Arts' Madden NFL is one of the most popular video game franchises in the United States, but when this year's edition came out last week, there were few online reviews of the game from critics — just four — to indicate if it was any good.

Why it matters: The lack of reviews for Madden NFL 24 is unusual, but may in fact not matter, which would prove the series is review-proof.

State of play: Madden NFL 24 reviews have trickled out slowly, most well after people could first buy the game.

  • When this year's Madden launched in "early access" on Aug. 15, there were zero reviews online.
  • When it was released more widely on Friday, Aug. 18, review aggregator OpenCritic listed just four from smaller outlets.
  • Bigger outlets such as IGN, GameSpot and Game Informer reviewed the game this week.
  • By contrast, Armored Core VI, a highly anticipated mech combat game, has already been reviewed by critics 64 times and won't be available until Friday.

Between the lines: The delayed reviews are partially by publisher EA's design.

  • The company sent critics review code for Madden NFL 24 on Aug. 15, the day of early access availability. Recipients could cover the game immediately, but EA requested no scored reviews run until Aug. 18.
  • By Aug. 17, GameSpot's Madden reviewer, Mark Delaney, hadn't reviewed the game, but he had published an article titled "What's even the point of sports games reviews?" In it, Delaney said he'd been playing Madden for days, but so had thousands of other people through the game's early access offering.

Be smart: While analysts tell Axios that reviews can affect many games' sales, it doesn't seem to matter if Madden stinks or shines, or if there's a critic able to say so right away.

  • For many people, Madden is a ritual $60 or $70 annual purchase, as are other sports games such as Take-Two's NBA 2K release or EA's FIFA (renamed EA Sports FC this year).
  • Recent Madden games have reviewed poorly (in the 60s out of 100), but sold well (No. 3 or No. 4 best-selling game in the U.S. since 2020).

The bottom line: "Sports games are too big to fail commercially, even if they fail critically," GameSpot's Mark Delaney wrote last Thursday. "And for publishers, that's a cozy place to be."

  • In line with recent entries, Madden NFL 24's current top critic average on OpenCritic is 66.

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