Madden '08 caters to hardcore football gamers


The Mirror

Michael Boyakins didn't get a lot of sleep last week and he can thank a video game for his self-induced insomia.

The 25-year-old Federal Way resident was one of millions of people across the United States to snatch up a copy of "Madden NFL 08." The ultra-popular football game's latest version was made available in stores last Tuesday at midnight. The Madden football franchise is more than just a video game. It has developed into a way of life for a lot of gamers in all walks of life.

The 18-year-old football video game franchise, produced by EA Sports and crafted by EA Tiburon, has become an icon, and the yearly mid-August launch of the new season's edition has become a holiday for NFL fans and video game players alike. Last year, the game grossed over $100 million dollars in its opening weekend and has sold over $2 billion in franchise history.

Boyakins was one of about 60 people to line up outside the Game Stop video game store on Pacific Highway South to get his hands on the new Madden. Needless to say, he wasn't disappointed.

"The new game is definitely the best football game thats come out in a long time," Boyakins said. "It's the most intelligent game that you are gonna play. You have to be a well-rounded player."

Last week's release of the new "Madden NFL 08" was not only a big deal in little ol' Federal Way, but it actually had a name. The marketing geniuses with Electronic Arts, the maker of the game, titled the release day Maddenoliday. Ozzy Osbourne performed in New York City's Times Square and former Giants running back Tiki Barber handed out copies of the game inside a New York Toys R Us.

Boyakins claims to pay the game for "two to three hours a day." A bulk of his play comes online against other players from around the world because his friends in Federal Way just can't hang with him.

"I'm kind of on a different level than the rest of my friends," Boyakins said. "I have been playing for about eight months now and have played probably 500 games. They pretty much play for fun and I play to really dominate. I play for bragging rights and wanna be the best. I've got a competitive fire."

Boyakins' bravado when it comes to playing Madden is pretty much par for the course for the elite gamers. Just like "real life" sports, Madden offers a winner and a loser and the opportunity for the winner to let the loser know who the better player is.

"You have to have that confidence in your game," Boyakins said.

The competitive nature of the game has even spawned a nationwide tour. The ESPN television show, called "Madden Nation," pits the world's best ballers against each other and culminates with the two best playing on a big screen in New York City's Times Square.

"Madden" has been a guaranteed profit maker for EA Inc. EA sold 7.4 million copies in North America last year, including 2 million in the first week, making it the top-selling title in 2006, according to market research firm NPD Group.

There are other football games on the market but EA hasn't had much competition in terms of realism on the virtual gridiron because of deals it struck in 2005.

That's when EA reached an exclusive agreement with the National Football League and its players' association that prevents other publishers from making games that include actual NFL teams and players.

Actual NFL players play as much as anyone, including Tennessee Titans quarterback and current cover boy Vince Young.

"We're beautiful," he said of his team's digital likeness in the game.

Young added that he's "not even a little bit" worried about the so-called "Madden Curse." Earlier Madden cover athletes such as Marshall Faulk and Shaun Alexander ended up with injuries later in the season, leading some to conjure up a connection.

But, curse or not, people still love to play the game.

"I see myself playing this game until I'm old and grey," Boyakins said. "Until my fingers are so riddled with arthritis that I can't use the controller."

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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