The Madden NFL '12 cover vote ends Wednesday. Before fans decide whether Peyton Hillis or Michael Vick will grace the cover of the venerable sports video game, Shutdown Corner talked with EA Sports senior product manager Anthony Stevenson about the cover vote, whether Madden was ever in danger of being shelved during the lockout and whether the cover athlete actually helps sales.
1. The cover vote has been a success. Almost 13 million people have voted during the month-long promotion event. EA had high hopes for the contest but the interest and publicity appear to have exceeded those. I noticed that even people who wonder why the Madden cover player matters are still talking about it. Stevenson has too. As he notes, before the cover vote there were likely a lot of fans who didn't know the game would come out in the event of a lockout. With the big interest in the final, that's no longer an issue.
2. Tim Tebow was included for the reason you'd expect. Performance was the biggest factor in selecting which 32 players would represent each team, but exceptions were made. Even though Brandon Lloyd was the best statistical choice for the Broncos, EA went with Tim Tebow. Hines Ward was the Steelers' nominee as more of a nod to lifetime achievement. As for Jordan Gross? We didn't get into that.
3. EA Sports is as surprised as you are about the final. The power of social networking contributed to Peyton Hillis' Cinderella run to the final, both in the way of pro-Hillis sites and anti-Rodgers sites, mainly created by Packers fans who didn't want the supposed Madden Curse to afflict their quarterback. Cleveland fans care not about curses. Stevenson said he thought at the beginning of the process that Rodgers, Tebow, Mark Sanchez and Michael Vick would go far in the voting. Two out of four ain't bad.
4. Madden was never in danger of not coming out this year. Though Stevenson couldn't go into contract specifics about why the NFL and NFLPA allowed Madden to be developed during a time when NFL front offices can't text their players, he says there was no scenario in which EA Sports wouldn't have released the game.
"There was going to be no circumstance in which we would not come out with Madden '12. [...] It would have been a shame not to continue with our plans. The NFL understands that. The NFLPA understands that. They support us. They want us to be putting that product out no matter what the scenario is that plays out. ... They realize that Madden is the biggest bridge between actual playing and the fans."
5. The impact of the cover athlete on sales can't be quantified. Putting Peyton Hillis or Michael Vick on the cover may not have a direct impact on sales. The cover vote campaign, however, likely will. "Awareness is the first step to purchase intent, purchase intent is the next step to picking up the game," he said.