It’s a new year and Madden NFL 23 is still in shambles. One of the crown jewels in Electronic Arts’ sports game monopoly, the latest entry continues to find new ways to piss off some of the series’ most diehard players. Busted in-game holiday gifts? Locked game modes? Wiped franchise saves? Poor communication? Take your pick.
It was a perfect storm of live service fails over the recent holiday break that’s once again left fans dreaming of a better way forward for the only pro football video game in town. The turmoil surrounding Madden 23 has been slowly unfolding since its August release. And while things have been steadily improving when it comes to the core gameplay, the heavily monetized live service side is still constantly catching fire.
The latest blaze started on Christmas Day. Players had been earning annual Zero Chill presents featuring special players and packs throughout the month that couldn’t be opened until December 25. Some had even spent $50 on bundles with the hopes of nabbing highly rated players for competing in EA’s lucrative Madden Ultimate Team mode. Then the bugs, exploits, and updates happened.
Some of the presents were supposed to include Tom Brady and Harold Carmichael and did. Lots of the presents were mislabeled, however, with images and names pointing to existing Legends packs rather than the Zero Chill ones. In attempting to fix the issue, EA pushed out an update that accidentally changed the contents of the presents, screwing some players out of high ranking cards, but also mistakenly giving others tons of extra card packs in what some YouTubers were calling the biggest glitch in the history of MUT. Another update was pushed out near the end of Christmas Day, but by the time the dust had settled some players had made out like bandits while others were still waiting for make-up presents.
“This resulted in some packs awarding significantly higher value and some packs awarding significantly lower value,” the Madden team posted on the EA forum several days later. While they promised to fix the gifts and offer all players an “additional large present” for the trouble, many players were still frustrated over the multiple mix-ups, especially those who had spent lots of money on the Zero Chill present hoarding ahead of time. To top it all off, some players claim to have been locked out of MUT altogether.
But what if I told you that wasn’t even the worst thing that happened in Madden last week? The actual worst thing that happened was players losing months of Connected Franchise Mode data after trying to log on while the servers were down between December 28 and 29. Franchise Mode lets groups of friends simulate multiple seasons together, and losing it can mean losing months of a collective football campaign.
“First off, we are sorry that this happened,” the development team posted on New Year’s Eve. “We know how important your franchises are to you and we are actively working on a fix to restore some files via a backup as soon as possible. However, not all affected leagues can be restored. The team is currently projecting around 40% of leagues to be recovered.”
It’s not clear how many people in total will be affected. “Anyone ever got this screen?” reads one of many recent posts on the Madden Subreddit, each accompanied by blue error screens of death. “How do we tell the poor lad?” responded one commenter. Adding insult to injury was the fact that EA initially appeared to downplay the scale of the corrupted save issues. When Franchise mode came back online, the publisher implied everything would go back to normal. Three days later it was telling players that roughly 60 percent of those affected had lost their data for good.
On Tuesday, the hits kept coming. EA canceled its regularly scheduled Good Morning Madden Twitch drop stream, adding in a tweet that “Updates around Present Packs + Players unable to access MUT will be published on Direct ASAP.” The reaction from fans was less than stellar, both because the publisher seemed to be ducking questions but also because it didn’t even mention the corrupted data issue.
It’s all left some fans wondering why the NFL continues to grant an exclusive license to EA. The current contract was renewed back in 2020 for six more years, and the game has been on a clear downward trajectory since then. 2K Games is supposed to be working on its own potential revival of NFL 2K, and after getting burned by Madden 23, a growing number of fans are at last talking about making the jump if the EA series doesn’t start shaping up.
EA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.