Madden NFL was literally on stage with the Wii U, the day the console was formally revealed to the world. The unspoken message: No more cartoony, casual American football or minigame bullshit, this is a sports title you can actually take seriously on a Nintendo console. This happened more than a year ago, at E3 2011.
Since then, EA Sports has built a Madden for the Wii U that not only leaves out the big-boy version's No. 1 new feature—real-time physics—but also we find out that Madden Ultimate Team won't be a part of the Wii U release, either. Nor will online team play, though you can play with up to five people in local multiplayer. It's been nine years since I played local multiplayer in Madden with as many as three other people. You?
Here's a great exchange between ESPN's video games writer, Jon Robinson, and Yuri Bialoskursky, the producer of Madden's Wii U version.
Robinson: But how can you say that online is such an emphasis and then not include features like Madden Ultimate Team?
Bialoskursky: Madden Ultimate Team is something that we're not going to have in year one. It's another one that we plan to add in as we go.
Robinson: You're killing me.
Bialoskursky: Again, we have other features that are really great. Connected Careers is going to take a lot of your time. Being able to interact and play against other people online while you try and create a legend out of yourself or picking one of those old legends like a Vince Lombardi or a Barry Sanders and taking them through a career is fun. There is a lot to look forward to on the Wii U.
Nintendo has been a distant third in gamers' online multiplayer expectations since forever. Though everything suggests the Wii U will be as powerful as the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360, the fact its Madden won't have all the online multiplayer features of the PS3 or the 360—nor will it be tasked with a heavyweight processing feature like runtime physics—doesn't speak of Wii U as a true sibling.
The snag holding back Ultimate Team on Wii U, by my guessing anyway, wouldn't seem to have anything to do with the capabilities of the console or the new Nintendo Network infrastructure. Ultimate Team's gameplay is basically a one-off online multiplayer match, just with really different rosters. What sets the mode apart is its marketplace, where packs of player cards are bought, traded in, auctioned and sold. Maybe there are some networking limitations involved, but the simplest explanation, to me, is that Nintendo and EA Sports couldn't come to an agreement on who makes how much money off these transactions—which has been a huge revenue engine for the label.
Regardless, EA Sports has had more than a year to iron out its multiplayer offerings for Madden NFL 13 on the Wii U. Further, I was told that the decision to move forward with real-time physics for Madden NFL 13 was made back in January. I can understand why that wouldn't extend to the PS Vita version of the game; there's no good answer for why the Wii U couldn't be included, if it really is as powerful a machine as the PS3 and 360. But none of this can be blamed on last-minute pressure when Madden stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Nintendo's new console more than a year ago.
'Madden NFL 13' Wii U Q&A [ESPN]