EA’s “most polished” Madden in years continues to walk a rough road. Madden 23 received its massive October title update on Thursday, and with it a lot of welcome tweaks to underlying gameplay. But despite a bevy of bug fixes, many fans still feel like EA isn’t been honest about the current underwhelming state of the game and what they see as the prioritization of microtransaction gambling over making sure regular modes are glitch-free.
“Today may have saved Madden 23,” Madden YouTuber Zirktober tweeted yesterday shortly after the October patch notes were published online. By the end of the day, players had discovered a major bug. Upgrading any of the game’s “Most Feared Monsters” players would automatically lock players out of Madden Ultimate Team, the game’s highly monetized competitive online mode.
“Do not upgrade any Most Feared Monster Maker players as it can lock your account out of Ultimate Team,” EA announced that evening. “We are currently working on fixing this issue and unlocking any players impacted.” A few hours later the bug was fixed and players could use the upgrades again without fear of being locked out, though EA still seemed unclear on the precise source of the issue. “We have disabled chemistry options on Monster Makers for the time being as we are investigating an issue,” it tweeted.
While the interruption ultimately ended up being just momentary, it was still a perfect encapsulation of the rollercoaster ride fans have been on since Madden 23 launched back in August. Initial reviews were mostly positive, followed by a harsher assessment by some players, including a few NFL pros. Content creators rallied around a brief “pack strike” to protest the high price and piss-poor odds of getting great players out of Madden Ultimate Team’s card packs. By the beginning of October, some wondered if Madden 23 could still be saved, or if it might end up being remembered as one of the worst iterations of the annualized money maker in several years.
First, the good news. Madden 23’s October Title update does address some core complaints in recent weeks. A recalibrated slider seems to be addressing the maddening number of super-human interceptions players were previously witnessing. A disconnect issue leading to lots of lost progress in Franchise mode was also seemingly fixed. CPU teams should no longer randomly end negotiations with players. Some players got new face scans. And there were plenty of teaks to blocking, catching, and other core gameplay mechanics.
“While not every issue has been resolved today, more fixes are coming with future updates as we continue to actively work to bring you the best possible experience. We value and appreciate your feedback,” EA wrote. “Our team is consistently taking it into consideration and working on delivering updates all season long.”
But the story with Madden is never as simple as one of total disaster or complete redemption. The title update also claimed to add the Jets’ new alternate black helmets, but several players have been getting glitched white versions instead. Franchise mode is also still a mixed bag. While some players report finally being able to progress in their seasons after previously hitting a wall of crashes and disconnects, others are still encountering the dreaded draft loop bug that sends them back to the beginning of a season whenever they finish a game.
Another particular sore spot remains Madden 23’s field passes, a battle pass system similar to the one free-to-play game Apex Legends added just this year. Its three tiers—Season, Competitive, and Fear—have given players issues ever since launch. Even now, they don’t always track players’ stats correctly, meaning players don’t get rewarded for completing an objective when they should. As YouTuber This Is Popular Stranger points out, just getting a pass open can be a chore, with some players still getting flooded with error messages when they try to access it. And then there are the missing rewards.
Some players weren’t getting rewards for House Rules matches, while others weren’t getting Trophy Packs for winning season-length Super Bowls. Coins, used to buy packs without spending real money, also went missing. EA acknowledged the issues at the end of last month, but players are still waiting to hear how it will be addressed. Meanwhile, Solo Battles, a main objective for collecting other rewards, were broken for a week, leaving many players to miss out. It’s a big problem for a game in which the only alternative is to shell out money on randomized card packs.
“I wonder if EA just doesn’t realize what a HUGE issue broken rewards is,” Madden streamer Kmac tweeted earlier this week. “It’s been THREE WEEKS now and they’re just dropping new promos like nothing is wrong. There’s no incentive to play Madden. No one can afford the new cards dropping.”
It’s the stinginess of the card packs—the backbone of Madden’s most popular online mode—paired with the lack of acknowledgement of ongoing bugs and lost rewards that’s continuing to foment discontent within the community.
“A lot of people were like, ‘Is the Pack Strike over?’ ‘The content’s really good, it felt like things were better this morning’—it’s absolutely not [over],” Popular Stranger said during his recent title update video. “The bundles do look better but we ain’t buying them. I hope you guys aren’t as well.”
A player who goes by iowaopoly on Twitter has been tracking pack and stat reroll odds since launch, and continues to believe they are some of the worst in years. That’s despite the card packs themselves historically making billions for EA. It was one of the few publishers to continue posting great profits this year while rivals like Ubisoft and Activision struggled, mostly on the back of microtransactions in series like Madden.
“The main theme of Madden 23 is stuff just continues to come out broken and super expensive and it takes days or even weeks to get stuff fixed in some way so players can get rewards to get the items or even play the game so it counts for something on progress,” Twitch content creator Rob Lopez told Kotaku. In the meantime, Madden 23 just went on sale. It’s $20 off less than two months after release.