NFL Lockout Ends, but Madden Must React QuicklyS

The National Football League's players approved a deal with the league owners this afternoon, ending a four-month lockout that had threatened the regular season and cast a shadow over development of one of the NFL's signature licensed products, EA Sports' Madden NFL. The game is on shelves Aug. 30.

EA Sports has yet to issue a statement reacting to the new deal but it shouldn't be anything but a relief for the label. Peter Moore, the EA Sports president, has said that sports games are compelling products because of the real-world doings of the leagues they represent. Electronic Arts had told investors to brace for lower sales if the NFL lost games to the lockout or canceled the season altogether.

[Update: 4:08 p.m.] EA Sports released this statement: "We are thrilled, as fans of NFL Football, that a resolution has been met and that the season will kick off without interruption."

This still requires fast action by the label. The roster that will ship on the Madden NFL 12 disc was likely rated and finalized well before now, and probably will be completely outdated in a matter of days. Free agency, put off until now by the labor impasse, is expected to begin tomorrow and should dramatically affect some teams' makeups. Whatever player movement takes place before the game's release probably will be handled in the first roster update EA Sports publishes. They will want to have that ready to go very close to the day of release, if not on it.

But a full regular season means features like Ultimate Team, a mode whose card-collecting component depends greatly on real-world doings in the NFL, can proceed without hindrance. And "Madden Moments Live," a weekly feature introduced last year that recreated highlights from the current season, is also clear to return.

Developmentally, the lockout did have a palpable effect on how Madden 12 was built. EA Sports turned its attention toward updates and upgrades satisfying hardcore, long-time Madden fans, rather than new features aimed at bringing in new or casual fans.

EA Sports also renegotiated its license with the NFL, believed to be second in value only to the league's television broadcast deals. Complete terms weren't disclosed, but EA Sports got a discount in exchange for another year added to exclusive pact with the league, which could also be seen as a benefit for the label.