Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) wants to drum up sales for its popular football game, and it's apparently not afraid to give a potential viral video with celebrity sizzle a shot. EA released a mini movie on Friday, ahead of Tuesday's retail availability, of Madden 16.
Simply entitled, Madden: The Movie, the nearly five-minute video features over-the-top antics starring David Franco and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Several NFL stars, including Rob Gronkowski, Julio Jones, and even new Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan, have cameos in the promotional video. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick steals the show impersonating Al Pacino's Scent of a Woman character.
It's easy to see why EA is pulling out all the stops to market the new game aggressively. There's a lot at stake here. Armed with NFL exclusivity, gridiron fans and diehard gamers flock to the annual releases. It's not just about the enhancements offered with every passing season. Buying the annual installments provides players with updated rosters.
The game seemed to peak in popularity three years ago with EA bragging about selling more than 1.65 million copies during the first week of Madden 13 availability. The stock took a hit a year later when EA announced that it had merely sold "more than a million" copies of the next installment.
We may never get exact confirmation on sales trends, but one thing that we know that the flagship EA Sports franchise is getting right is engagement. Armed with more broadband-tethered gamers, Madden 15 last year was able to raise the bar in playing activity. EA revealed during last year's fiscal second quarter -- the fiscal period when the game hits the market -- that it had recorded 89 million games being played to date, 48% ahead of the prior year.
Gamers are also playing longer. Owners of Madden releases have historically abandoned the game once the NFL season is over, but EA noticed continuing engagement for Madden 15 beyond this February's Super Bowl. The addition of an Ultimate Team feature -- something that it has seen extend the shelf life of its FIFA soccer game series in previous year -- is apparently working for the football franchise.
This brings us to the genius of Madden: The Movie. It's too early to tell if it will be a viral masterpiece, but if it does start to spread through social media, it will reach more than just the gamers who religiously buy the annual installments. It will reintroduce the franchise to folks who used to play before moving on from console diversions. It could bring Madden even deeper into the mainstream, and at the very least, it will lead NFL players and coaches clamoring for more than just a shot to be on the video game cover if there's enough going on here to merit a sequel.
EA needs a big score here, so it may as well load up its huddle with playmakers.