New Madden & NBA Live Leadership Commit To Gameplay, Live Services
Madden and NBA Live developer EA Tiburon has officially announced a swap of sorts for some of its senior positions. Former Madden senior producer Seann Graddy has become executive producer at NBA Live, and Carlos Guerrero, who was a veteran at Blizzard (including a position as a senior game producer on Overwatch), is now filling Graddy's spot on Madden. Graddy and Guerrero already moved into their new positions earlier this year and are beginning to help shape their respective franchises.
Graddy moved over to NBA at the beginning of the year and before then was looking at who could replace him at the Madden team which Guerrero recently joined at the time. "I sought a guy like Carlos because we wanted to do things differently," says Graddy. "How could [he] make us think differently when we're building a game mechanic on the field or thinking about a new mode or a new way to play inside Ultimate Team?"
Guerrero, with over 20 years experience at Blizzard working on legendary titles like Diablo II, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch, didn't outline drastic changes for the Madden franchise, but thought his background at Blizzard – with its strong ties to its games' communities and post-launch support – could help the football series move to "much more of a live service model."
While Madden and NBA Live are currently on different spots along their respective evolutions – the former already settled into this console generation while the latter having just steadied itself with The One career mode after some years in the wilderness – both Guerrero and Graddy stressed that gameplay was the priority for their franchises. Although NBA isn't on the Frostbite engine like Madden, the franchises now share feature-related technology at EA Tiburon which could make the sharing of feature sets easier in the future. This was something that recently-exited Madden creative director Rex Dickson (more on him later) mentioned at E3 in 2017.
Despite the success of NBA Live 18's The One career feature and Madden 18 being more multiplayer orientated, Graddy and Guerrero both say this year's titlesl have something for fans of all of the game's modes. "Madden 19 is a much more balanced offering for Madden where we are giving some love to all our player base," says Guerrero, "because I think that's extremely important."
The features of Madden 19 in particular were likely already set in stone when longtime creative director Rex Dickson left the studio earlier this month, but some of Dickson's comments at the time opened the door to speculation. Dickson said that "there is no drama or deeper story" to his departure, but also said that his leaving was "as much for me and my family as it is about giving the team, the community, and the Madden franchise a chance for a new direction."
What is that new direction? "That's something that we're currently working through," said Guerrero, who characterized himself as a "steward" for the franchise, and just one of the team members leading it. "But I'll tell you what is really philosophically important to me: Gameplay at the foundational level is important. Community and visibility into the community is also something that is extremely important to me, so that the community understands our direction and where we're headed."
Guerrero's comments about moving Madden to more of a live service model match what EA CEO Andrew Wilson said at the end of last year, broaching the possibility of a non-annual release schedule for sports series like Madden and FIFA.
Until then, I'm interested how someone of Guerrero's impressive background can hopefully make Madden more responsive post-launch with bug fixes, updates, and content. EA has work to do before it can match what Blizzard does in that department with games like Overwatch.