On Madden... Excerpt from: Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works

With the release of Madden this yere I thought it'd be interesting to share an excerpt from a true treasure of a book called Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works.

There is so much here to digest, it's just... awesome.

Keith Stuart, author. The quote at the beginning is Trip Hawkins, founder of Electronic Arts.


"We had a lot of existing intellectual property - things like Marble Madness - as well as new games like Populous and all the EA Sports products. Many of them had already been executed in a 16-bit, 68000 version, usually for the Amiga. Transitioning that value onto the Genesis was easy. We could quickly ramp up a big product line because we were already a pretty large company with good development tools, and good methodologies for scaling onto new platforms. We really cracked the whip. We developed 20 Genesis titles in the first year and were racking up profits. Between 1990 and 1992, the total market value of EA went from $60 million to $2 billion. A lot of people rightly believe that had EA not been there, Sega would not have ended up with half the 16-bit market."

Hawkins has always been an arch-self-publicist, but he has a point. EA already had a mature fan base, thanks to its in-depth sports and strategy titles. It was then able to draw those fans to the Mega Drive with exciting simulations like John Madden Football and EA Hockey/NHL Hockey. The relationship, however, started on a controversial note. Hawkins originally objected to the restrictive console business model, which involved Sega manufacturing all game cartridges and charging publishers up to $10 per copy. EA reverse-engineered the technology and threatened to produce its own cartridges unless Sega reduced the costs. It did, and a relationship began. As a result, EA was ready to step in when Sega's Joe Montana game - its killer app for the vital Christmas 1990 season - hit trouble. Sega had employed developer Mediagenic to produce the game, but with a few months to go it was apparent the studio would miss its deadline. Katz knew who to call.

'Sega phoned and they were panicking,' says Hawkins. 'They said, "Our Montana game is not going to get done on time, you need to be a team player, you need to rescue Christmas for the Genesis." They wanted me to abandon our own Madden title and reframe it as Montana. My attitude was, "Are you kidding? We're going to build a great company around Madden - I'm going to double-dip and do both." I went back to Sega and said, "Write me a cheque for $2 million and in six weeks we'll give you your game." And that's what we did. Both games came out and they were two of the top-selling titles that Christmas. Everyone was happy.'

Toyoda reveals further intricacies of those negotiations:

"This was a wild moment in games history. I still recall Sega agreed to pay a 24% royalty to EA for Joe Montana. In those days the developer royalty was usually 5%. And we agreed to give EA 16 release slots a year for its games - Sega usually only allowed third-party publishers four. So EA said, "Okay then, we will give you the sports games as Genesis exclusives, they won't be on Super NES." We agreed. We said, "Let's form a partnership and beat Nintendo together."

The Madden/Montana dichotomy perfectly symbolized the Genesis proposition: the former was a serious sim aimed at scholars of the sport; the latter an arcade-style romp with intuitive controls and brash graphics. The console straddled both worlds: it was aspirational and fun; it wasn't a toy, it was a serious piece of kit. The tactic worked. Joe Montana Football was a hit, and the future of the Madden franchise, which would go on to sell over 100 million units, was secured. Crucially, older kids were starting to take notice. As Katz recalls, 'The sports titles brought in a broader audience, an older age demographic than Nintendo's - they definitely appealed to teenagers and young adults. The thinking was smart and timely: Nintendo may have had the family market sewn up, but Sega had its sights set on a vast untapped audience. hungry for a new breed of game.