The "Madden" football franchise may not be the crown jewel at Electronic Arts anymore, but it still shines pretty bright. And this year, EA is counting on that shine to help it launch the company's boldest digital push to date.
"Madden 15," the 26th installment in the long-running series, officially hits store shelves on Aug. 26, but superfans of the game were able to start playing on Aug. 21 by subscribing to EA Access, a just-launched Netflix-like service that lets fans play back catalog EA games and get early looks at new titles for $5 per month or $30 per year.
EA Access Subscribers will get a six-hour preview of Madden 15, via Microsoft's Xbox One console. (Sony opted against offering EA's service, which could compete with its own upcoming PlayStation Now game streaming service.) To further drive traffic to the service, EA opted not to make a free demo of this year's Madden game available to fans, as it has in the past.
The publisher is hoping that short taste of the game will boost sales. The release of each year's Madden game marks the beginning of the holiday sales period for the videogame industry. It's typically heralded by avid fans (some of whom go so far as to call in sick to work so they can play) and a major marketing blitz by EA.
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But the celebration surrounding the game hasn't been quite as raucous recently. Last year's "Madden 25" (named to celebrate the game's 25th anniversary) saw sales drop amid the transition from the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era to the Xbox One/PlayStation 4. (First week sales of "Madden 25" came in at 1 million units, versus 1.65 million for the 2012 version of the game.)