How two Madden NFL 15 addicts are helping other Madden NFL 15 addicts


(Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters)

Remember when the only video game cheat code you needed to know was the Konami Code? Those days are dead. Today one needs entire tomes to understand the ins and outs of how to get ahead in the complex world of games like Madden NFL 15. So it’s not a coincidence that on Tuesday, when EA Sports will release its latest Madden game, two Boston area bros are releasing their “Madden NFL 15: Prima Official Game Guide” — the fourth edition of  Stephen Gibbons’s and Zach Farley’s Madden guide series.

Per the Boston Globe:

Farley’s and Gibbons’s work has earned the admiration of the game’s biggest fans. “I think they do a great job,” said Billy Brewer, 46, a product manager for AT&T Inc. in Austin, Texas, who has been playing “Madden” for 20 years. He plays about 10 hours a week. But he also sets aside 10 to 12 hours to study each new guidebook. “I would say it turned me from a below-average player to competitive,” Brewer said.

Gamers like Brewer are rare, however. While the “Madden” games tend to sell between 6 million and 7 million copes per year, the guides, including the three previous editions, have sold a total of just 200,000 copies, the Boston Globe reports.

Yet the concept of this uber-player is one that EA Sports has incorporated into its “Madden NFL 15″ marketing campaign, which stars Kevin Hart and Dave Franco as two crazed gamers whose Madden obsession takes over every aspect of their lives.

Farley and Gibbons, aka “ZFarls” and “SGibs,” can probably relate. Per the Boston Globe:

There is only one way to master the endless complexity of the game: constant, relentless practice. Farley and Gibbons get an early copy of each new “Madden” game and go to work. It takes three months of 12-hour days, seven days a week, to master every detail. They do their homework inside a small, windowless office in a Waltham [Massachusetts] office park.

“We’re a very specific community,” Farley told the Boston Globe. “We’re the hardcore of the hardcore. People that want to know how to get better, not necessarily to just come and enjoy.”

That dichotomy between fun and something almost akin to work is always on the mind of the game’s creators, who decide which improvements to make with each new “Madden” edition.

“You really want to put a Jacuzzi in your backyard but you’ve got to replace your roof,” “Madden” creative director Rex Dickson tells USA Today. “There’s nothing sexy about fixing your roof and you shouldn’t want that Jacuzzi but the right thing to do is work on your roof. It’s a lot of decisions like that.”

With that in mind, EA Sports has ramped up quite a few features in “Madden 15,” including the useless but highly enjoyable addition of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernik’s tattoos, as well as the less flashy but very necessary enhancement of defensive line moves.

No matter what EA Sports does, however, the game is likely to be a hit — and copies of Gibbons’s and Farley’s books will still sell — although maybe not immediately due to a changeover in video game consoles this year.

“The timing of sales is going to be different this year,” Arcadia Investment Corp. Managing Director John Taylor told CNBC. “In the past, a large percentage of ‘Madden’ demand was fulfilled immediately after release. This time, I think a larger percentage will be sold when people buy new hardware for the holidays. I expect Madden to be a really strong gift item.”

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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